After President Trump campaigned in the Pelican State on Friday night for Republicans, Louisiana held their “jungle” primary on Saturday for its statewide election. All state offices were on the ballot.
Republicans outperformed Democrats statewide and wound up winning 5 of the 7 statewide races. They also look to be heavy favorites in a 6th (Secretary of State). Additionally, Louisiana achieved a legislative supermajority in the Senate and a decent chance at one in the House. In typical fashion, Trump spiked the football in the end zone on Twitter following the results.
The Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, has done a poor job. NOW HE IS IN A RUNOFF WITH A GREAT REPUBLICAN, @EddieRispone. Thank you Louisiana! 66% down to 47% after I explained what a bad job the Governor was doing.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2019
The prevailing wisdom was that incumbent Governor John Bel Edwards could possibly win with 50% in the primary avoiding a runoff against his two Republican challengers. However, from the polling guidance, it’s pretty clear that Trump’s involvement and late appearance had an impact. As a result, Edwards wound up with 46.6% of the vote and will now face Republican Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who finished with 27.4%.
The other Republican in the race, Rep. Ralph Abraham, immediately and whole-heartedly endorsed Rispone on the evening of the election setting up a unified Republican front against the incumbent Democrat. Republicans outpolled Democrats 51.8% to 47.4% in the Governor’s race.
What this means for Mississippi
JMC Analytics, a Louisiana-based polling firm, looked at the dynamics of the voter turnout Saturday. What is clear is that Trump clearly moved the needle for Louisiana Republicans a couple of points at least from even the most conservative polling projections. Troubling also for Louisiana Democrats is that while overall turnout was up, black voters did not show up to the polls for the most part.
In the 2015 primary for Governor, 1.14 million (or 39%) turned out to vote. Last night, turnout increased to 45%, for a total turnout of 1.34 million voters. This was a conservative turnout: while 25% of the early vote was black, JMC estimates that due to 35% Election Day turnout in white precincts and 28% Election Day turnout in the black precincts, 27% of last night’s electorate was black. In other words, an estimated total electorate that was 26.5% black, which is on the low side in Louisiana in terms of base Democratic voter intensity;
Mississippi saw some similar dynamics in its primary in August. Republicans for the first time crossed the 300,000 vote threshold and wound up with a record primary total of 374,000 votes to 290,000 for Democrats.
With Edwards locked in a fight for the next few weeks against Rispone, who is self funded and has spent a reported $11 million on his own race, the Democrat Governor’s Association (DGA) will be forced to spend big money and resources helping Edwards hold on. A completely unified Republican front makes the threat to Edwards that much more serious. That takes away from funds that could have been diverted to Democrat AG Jim Hood’s campaign in Mississippi.
In addition to the simple economics, the voter behavior in Mississippi and Louisiana are interesting. Rural white voters in both states continue to run away from the Democrat party. And black voters do not seem to have a core issue or candidate to rally around at this point in the cycle. Despite the public protestations of leaders in the Democrat party (both black and white), unemployment is at or near record lows and the state and national economies, relative to recent years past, have done very well in the Trump era so far. In other words, a bad economic environment (which is usually the most powerful driver for politics in the negative sense) is not pushing voters to the polls looking for wholesale change.
Certainly, Mississippi has its own election dynamics, particularly for the gubernatorial contest. Cook Report has Mississippi as “Lean Republican” and notes that “virtually everything has to go right in order for Hood to pull off the upset.” But the trend lines are clearly pushing in Republican’s directions at this point in the Deep South at this point.