SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Is there enough time to heal primary wounds and rally the Louisiana Republican troops?
That’s the question as incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is now less than five weeks from a runoff with political newcomer and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who is a Republican.
And in Ruby Red Louisiana, a Republican stronghold, analysts see distinct potential advantages for Rispone.
Gary Joiner, chairman of LSU-Shreveport’s history department, weighs the political calculus involved in this hotly contested race that’s only half over.
"The Republican faithful will come out and vote if they're not mad."
The professor noted that the campaign toward the primary election was brutal among the Republican challengers.
“Rispone did a lot of slash-and-burn ads.”
That aggressive, negative campaigning, what some describe as a scorched earth strategy, can work effectively, as it did for Rispone to get him into the runoff with Edwards.
But that approach has consequences, especially against a respected fellow Republican like three-term Congressman Ralph Abraham.
“And people, particularly in North Louisiana, that know Abraham and like him didn’t like that.”
Joiner said that has put Rispone in a difficult position of pivoting away from the bare-knuckles strategy he took against a fellow Republican.
“You’re gonna have to have a hard time in five weeks to convince people that you’re a likable guy to the Abraham faithful.”
That’s why the best tactic for the Republican Party might be to focus a bit less on who Rispone is and what he does and more on a common enemy, Joiner suggested.
In this case, he said, the focus should be put squarely on Edwards, who is vying for his second term.
Caddo Parish GOP Chairman Louis Avallone told KSLA News 12 that Louisiana Republicans know what’s at stake in the gubernatorial race.
“We’re at the bottom of every list on matters that matter, the most to our families and to our future. And Abraham voters understand that.”
Democrats, meanwhile, know despite all their efforts, Edwards couldn’t reach the simple majority — 50 percent plus 1 vote — to avoid the runoff.
Joiner said this is where political strategy can play a critical role in the outcome.
“If I were the Democratic strategist for the state, I would start looking at really hammering get out the vote, 'cuz it’s gonna be less.”
That runoff takes place Saturday, Nov. 16.