Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone told us a lot about himself this week. The wealthy businessman began running a television campaign ad targeting U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a fellow Republican. Rispone, Abraham, and incumbent John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, are the three leading candidates in the race for governor.
Rispone’s ad hits Abraham hard, portraying him as an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and opposing a border wall. The ad calls Abraham a liar for breaking a campaign promise to donate his congressional salary to charity, instead using the cash to buy an airplane. Rispone also accuses Abraham of missing more votes than any other member of Congress. Rispone criticizes Abraham for once calling for Donald Trump to exit the presidential race after a tape surfaced during the 2016 campaign catching Trump bragging about grabbing women by their genitalia.
Rispone must realize going negative on Abraham is a huge advantage for Edwards and very well could lead to the incumbent governor avoiding a runoff and winning outright next month. If Edwards gets 50% plus one vote on Oct. 3, the race is over.
“It’s sad that my Republican opponent felt like his only option was to create an ad full of baseless personal attacks that he knows aren’t true," Abraham said Monday. "This is the literal playbook that allowed John Bel to be elected four years ago. I’m sure his (Rispone's) out-of-state consultants told him that he was so far behind he had to do this to win, regardless of what it could mean for our state."
Rispone is running third behind Edwards and Abraham, according to a recent survey taken by pollster Bernie Pinsonat. It showed Edwards at 47%, Abraham at 24% and Rispone at 16%. Rispone’s attack on Abraham could very well be an act of desperation. Rispone has spent five times as much as Abraham and still hasn’t caught the congressman.
Edwards already has a decided advantage in the race considering his 47% is still higher than Abraham’s and Rispone’s combined, according to the Pinsonat survey — although a recent Remington Research poll shows Edwards with 45%, Abraham with 27%, and Rispone with 19%. In the poll, Abraham and Rispone’s numbers combined equal 45%, which would hypothetically lead to a dead heat between the Republican candidate and Edwards in a November runoff.
The Rispone attack ad could damage Abraham considerably in a tight race considering some voters view Edwards as a conservative as a result of the governor’s pro-life stand. If the Rispone ad convinces enough voters Abraham is a friend of Pelosi and not a conservative, they could instead go with Edwards in the primary. That's even though on fiscal matters, Edwards is the farthest thing from a conservative.
New Census Bureau data released last week showed that while the U.S. poverty rate is declining, it’s ticking higher in Louisiana under Edwards. According to the two and three-year averages, Louisiana now has the highest poverty rate in the nation. And in August, we learned Edwards was the only governor to preside over a state that lost jobs in the past year. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that from June 2018 to July 2019, Louisiana lost 1,000 jobs. And yet Mississippi had a net increase of 19,000 jobs, Alabama gained 40,000, Florida gained 227,000, and Texas realized a net increase of 323,000. Edwards has not only gone to war with Louisiana’s private sector; he’s also passed the largest tax increase in state history and grown government spending by more than 25%.
The nation is experiencing the strongest economic boom in U.S. history, and yet under Edwards’ leadership, Louisiana is missing out on the fun. Considering the incumbent governor’s record on the economy, he should be polling in single digits.
If Rispone is as conservative as he claims, he would avoid the temptation to attack Abraham during the jungle primary, increasing the chances Edwards will continue his assault on the state’s economy. In going negative on Abraham, Rispone stains his longstanding and consistent record of supporting conservative causes in Louisiana. It’s now fair to wonder if Rispone is in the race not to reverse the anti-growth, job-killing policies of Edwards, but instead for his own ego and desire for power.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.