All eyes are focused on Louisiana, where Donald Trump will hold a rally on Friday night and the state’s voters will go to the polls in a “jungle primary” on Saturday.
The primary pits incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards against Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone.
Edwards has been hovering in recent polls just a few points under the 50 percent majority he will need to avoid a November runoff election against Saturday’s second place finisher. Abraham and Rispone have been jockeying for the second spot, with both registering between 20 percent and 25 percent in recent polls.
President Trump has been attacking Edwards vigorously in recent days, portraying him as another Democrat in lockstep with the impeachment inquiry announced two weeks ago by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). On Tuesday, White House Counsel Pat Cippolone sent a powerful letter to Pelosi, calling the inquiry an illegal and unconstitutional violation of the president’s due process rights.
For his part, Edwards has attempted to deflect the president’s attacks while avoiding a direct confrontation, as The Advocate reported on Friday:
Hours before President Donald Trump’s planned rally in Lake Charles Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said voters should not take cues from the “partisanship” of Washington, D.C., and touted his working relationship with the president on the eve of the open primary election in the governor’s race.
Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, responded to Trump’s Twitter missives against him, noting he has long held a pro-gun stance and saying Trump doesn’t know him or Louisiana.
“I don’t think Louisiana should be taking its inspiration from the partisanship of D.C.,” he said in a half-hour-long press conference at SOWELA Community Technical College in Lake Charles. “I think Washington, instead, should take inspiration from the bipartisanship of Louisiana.”
The Washington Post noted that Edwards’ efforts to avoid a runoff may fall short:
As the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, John Bel Edwards appeared to be doing everything necessary to win a second term in Louisiana, a state whose populist Democratic roots seem to fray a bit more each year.
Edwards signed some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws . He cozied up to President Trump, scoring an invite to a state dinner at the White House. And in a state with a robust Catholic population, Edwards aired television ads showing him shaking hands with Pope Francis.
But all that still might not be enough for the governor to win his reelection battle outright on Saturday, as Trump holds an 11th-hour rally to boost support for the two leading GOP challengers.
Early voting results suggest that the impeachment inquiry has created massive increases in Republican and Independent turnout, as Breitbart News reported on Sunday:
Early voting in the October 12 “jungle primary” between incumbent Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and two Republican candidates ended on Saturday, and the turnout is massive, particularly among Republicans and Independents.
“As of last night, 374,190 Louisianians either early voted by person or by mail in ballot (340,480 in person, and 33,710 mail in ballots). To put this number in perspective, this is the highest early voting turnout EVER for a non-Presidential election, and is the second highest early voting turnout EVER (only the 2016 Presidential election has seen a higher in person + absentee voting turnout with 531,555 early votes),” Louisiana-based JMC Analytics reported on Sunday.
“Republican turnout volume is up 84%, while Independent turnout is up 80% and Democratic turnout is up 36%,” JMC Analytics concluded.
On election eve, the question of whether Edwards will surpass the 50 percent margin needed to avoid a runoff remains in doubt. The outcome is likely to be determined by Republican turnout on election day. Historically, about 80 percent of all votes in the gubernatorial jungle primary are cast on election day.
Should Edwards fail to reach 50 percent, Republicans are expected to rally around the second place finisher in the November runoff, whether it be Abraham or Rispone. That possible Republican consolidation in a potential November runoff election may be easier for Abraham than Rispone, since Abraham has focused his campaign attacks on Edwards, while Rispone has criticized both Edwards and Abraham.