A Red Wave Through the Bayou
Scott McKay
by
Republican gubernatorial nominee Eddie Rispone (YouTube screenshot)

Had the reverse happened on Saturday night in Louisiana, you can bet you’d be seeing the legacy media reporting nonstop the results of the state’s primary elections as A Rejection of President Trump’s Policies and Performance and an Ominous Sign for GOP Hopes of Holding the White House and Senate.

But given what actually happened on Saturday, what you heard were … crickets chirping.

That isn’t completely true, of course. By now everybody probably knows that the state’s Democrat governor John Bel Edwards, who is the closest thing to a post turtle in current American politics, was not able to reach a majority vote in the state’s jungle primary and will now face a runoff against conservative industrial construction magnate Eddie Rispone in the November 16 general election. Edwards managed just 46.5 percent of the vote in a six-way race, with Rispone (27 percent) besting Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham (24 percent) to earn a spot in the runoff.

Edwards is no longer in control of his fate. Rispone and Abraham combined for more than 51 percent of the vote, with another Republican candidate, Patrick “Live Wire” Landry (the nickname coming from Landry’s trade as an electrician, though common sense dictates he might not be a very good one with such a moniker), pulling another percentage point. If Rispone is able to consolidate Abraham’s vote and a majority of that of the minor candidates, he will be Louisiana’s next governor.

Edwards’ desperation was evident in the fact that on Sunday, one day after failing to earn 50 percent of the vote against fractured opposition — Rispone had roiled the race two weeks from the primary election by unleashing a controversial attack ad against Abraham, which the latter’s camp screamed was driving voters into Edwards’ camp, though that didn’t fully materialize on Election Night — he released a poll by the Democrat firm ALG Research that showed him besting Rispone in a head-to-head race, 52-36. But the poll was taken prior to the runoff, and as such the Abraham voters surveyed had no opportunity to hear his endorsement of Rispone. That’s a significant factor, seeing as though the ALG poll suggested 15 percent of Abraham’s voters would switch parties and vote for Edwards while 27 percent were undecided. One imagines Abraham’s endorsement would help Rispone pull a little more than 58 percent of his voters, particularly in a Republican state with the worst economic performance in America during Edwards’ tenure.

Edwards’ internal polling, which based on his campaign finance reports also came from ALG, supposedly had him winning the election outright on Saturday with as much as 54 percent of the vote. To release a poll from that same clearly discredited source isn’t a great look. The governor then compounded the stink of desperation by unloading a fresh round of TV spots onto the airwaves starting on Monday, breaking the usual custom of at least giving voters a couple of days’ respite before the campaign cranks back up again.

Rispone’s campaign, meanwhile, was busy working to absorb Abraham’s staffers, volunteers, and voters, with varying degrees of success. So far it looks like Democrats are more worried than Republicans are about the prospects for the runoff.

There is a major reason for this, of course, which is what else happened on Saturday. Namely, the GOP staged a rout of such proportions rarely seen in legislative races, all but wiping out the Democrat Party outside of majority-black districts.

So much so that it’s well within reach for Republicans to control 27 of the 39 seats in the state Senate, one more than a supermajority. And it’s more than likely the GOP will have at least 68 of the 105 House seats, with at least a functional supermajority of 70 quite possible, when those runoff elections are completed. This, to go with every single down-ballot statewide race. Republican incumbents in the offices of lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, and insurance commissioner all won reelection on Saturday, with the state’s GOP secretary of state facing a runoff he’ll easily win on November 16 (Republicans in that race carried 64 percent of the vote on Saturday).

It was a blowout of such proportions that Democrats are reduced to supporting moderate Republicans in runoff elections for the state Supreme Court and in a few legislative races just to keep hardcore conservatives out of seats for which they are no longer competitive.

The Republican supermajorities-to-be in the Legislature mean that conservatives will determine Louisiana’s future even if Rispone can’t knock Edwards out of the governor’s mansion. Traditionally, the state Legislature’s leadership is chosen by the governor in back-room dealing, but four years ago the House departed from that norm by rejecting his choice for house speaker and becoming a truly independent body for the first time in modern history — and the House has been a pain in Edwards’ derriere for the past four years. With the Senate races going the way they have, in which not just Democrats but RINO Republicans have found themselves being replaced by sturdy conservatives, it looks very promising that the Senate will be just as problematic in the event Edwards is reelected.

Which, the guess is, he won’t be.

On Friday of last week, President Trump descended on Lake Charles for a Republican unity rally, which resulted in a 10-point margin of GOP turnout compared to that of the Democrats. Runoff elections in Louisiana usually produce a smaller, whiter, and more conservative electorate, and Trump is expected to return, perhaps multiple times, to energize the GOP vote.

Edwards has no such ace in the hole. He and the Louisiana Democrat Party, amid griping that Trump’s arrival “nationalized” the race, drafted Barack Obama to voice-over an Election Day robocall to black voters — and, based on turnout, it flopped. The state’s swing voters, who have been intensely negative toward Obama since his 2010 decision to impose a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, are less likely to pull a lever for Edwards with the word having gotten out about that robocall. And the current batch of Democrat luminaries — Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Liz Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer — would do incalculable damage if they attempted to help.

It’s a rolling disaster for the party that formerly governed Louisiana as a political fiefdom from Reconstruction until the late 1990s, and it could be the end of the Democrat Party as a major force in state politics.

Few will miss them in a state left thoroughly broken by Edwards’ misrule and a tradition, built by his Democrat predecessors, of waste, corruption, overtaxation, and incompetence at the Capitol. If Rispone can finish the job the voters began on Saturday, the Bayou State might join the rest of America in the Trump revival.

Scott McKay
Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics. He’s also a novelist — check out his first book “Animus: A Tale of Ardenia,” available in Kindle and paperback.
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