Current Governor John Bel Edwards should be in trouble. He is a Democrat in a solidly Republican state. So solid that president Donald Trump’s popularity is higher in Louisiana than any other state in the country. Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the entire south and the only Democratic statewide official in Louisiana. So he should be in the run for his life.
But not so fast. Ole’ John Bel is far from being relegated to underdog status. In fact, at this point in the campaign, with just months to go, the current governor is an odds-on favorite to get reelected. Several things work in his favor.
First, campaign dollars. Edwards has a war chest that exceeds ten million dollars. Money is the mother’s milk for getting elected, and the Governor hit the ground running by raising campaign funds from the get-go. Knowing from the beginning of his term that he would face a major Republican effort to defeat him he began major fund raising efforts earlier than any incumbent governor in recent memory. He has left in a cloud of dust early efforts by former Gov. Bobby Jindal and Edwin Edwards to raise large campaign funds following their elections. And that’s saying something.
Second, if you are going to run as a Democrat in a southern state, Edwards profiles well. He volunteered to serve his country in the Army, and qualified as a special forces officer. Few other governors—Democrat or Republican— have these distinctions on their resumes. Edwards is a strong second amendment proponent and opposes abortion—views that fit well in Louisiana. He is an amiable fellow, with no major scandals in his administration’s first term.
Third, his opponents have not distinguished themselves in either fundraising or on policy distinctions from Edwards. What do they stand for other than being against? Two Republicans have emerged, Congressman Ralph Abraham and Baton Rouge businessman, Eddie Rispone. Abraham is a popular Northeast Louisiana congressman, and Rispone is the founder of an industrial contracting company. But so far, both candidates have yet to define themselves. They both agree that Edwards is a tax and spend Democrat. But what is their alternative? Voters are yet to find out.
A new poll just out by LSU’s Media and Public Affairs department found that more than nearly half of Louisiana residents say the state is heading in the right direction, which is a big jump from last year when only 39% of voters felt this way. This is good news for the Edwards campaign.
But there is a potential problem for the incumbent governor. And it’s not his two announced opponents. There is another elephant in the room. A big elephant. And it could grow into a major problem for Edwards. The hitch for him is not another Louisiana candidate. It’s a guy named Donald J. Trump.
Trump’s popularity in Louisiana is higher than in any other state in the nation, generally holding in the 65% range. If the state republican party can eliminate one of the two current major republican candidates, and the President makes a full-blown endorsement and campaign effort then Edwards could be in real trouble.
So what will happen in the coming weeks? Will one of the two Republicans drop out? Will the President get involved? Trump doesn’t support losers and he will no doubt wait until the final weeks of the campaign to decide if he will jump into the Louisiana governor’s race. The intrigue will continue in the next four months. Just another round of suspenseful Louisiana politics.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.