When newly elected officials score well in public opinion polls, analysts sometimes chalk it up to the honeymoon effect, even if still-new Gov. John Bel Edwards’ first nine months were more like a honeymoon from hell.
In fact, it seemed in the early days of his term, back when the state House bucked his choice for speaker, that the freshly inaugurated Democratic leader of this firmly Republican state wouldn’t get much of a break at all.
The U.S. Senate race is tightening with the top Republicans and top Democrats in a virtual d…
And in retrospect, we didn’t know the half of it. Not only did Edwards have to grapple with the devastating budget shortfall his predecessor Bobby Jindal left in place, not only did he have to push higher taxes through a resistant Republican legislative majority and still cut services. But almost as soon as the budget finally passed, he found himself overseeing three catastrophes: a racially tense Baton Rouge police shooting, which was caught on viral video, and subsequent protests; the shooting deaths of three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers during a terrifying Sunday morning massacre; and then the widespread flooding around Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
So a new Southern Media & Opinion Research poll giving Edwards a hearty 62.5 percent approval rating — an impressive figure that puts him even with one of his regular GOP critics, state Treasurer John Kennedy, and 10 points ahead of another, Attorney General Jeff Landry — might seem surprising.
Or perhaps not. Having followed the campaign to succeed Jindal, whose own approval rating dropped precipitously toward the end of his second term, most of the 500 likely voters interviewed September 15-17 probably get that Edwards faced no easy choices right off the bat. And over the stressful summer, they've watched Edwards emerge as a steady, hands-on and empathetic leader who has mostly sidestepped partisan land mines.
That could all change when officials sit down to try to rewrite and stabilize the tax code this year and next, once the Alton Sterling shooting case plays out in court (or doesn’t), and as the recovery from the devastating flood drags on, as it surely will.
Still, it’s common for voters who’ve just elected a new person to start off giving him the benefit of the doubt. These new poll numbers suggest most Louisianans think that, nine action-packed months later, Edwards is still earning it.