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Louisiana Governor's Race Enters Final Week

Wallis Watkins, WRKF/Aurianna Cordero, LSU Reveille

The Louisiana governor's race is too close to call as it enters its final week. National political analysts have described the race as a toss-up and local polling shows incumbent John Bel Edwards and GOP challenger Eddie Rispone neck-and-neck as they make their final pitches to voters.

On this week's Capitol Access, Stephanie Grace, columnist for The New Orleans Advocate joins the program to discuss the race.

Q: The poll I mentioned in the intro was conducted by Mason Dixon Strategy for Gray Television. It shows Edwards with a slight lead at 48% and Rispone just behind at 46%, but that's well within the 4% margin of error. How is that affecting the candidates campaign strategies?

Well it really has been a toss-up since John Bel Edwards did not win outright in the primary. He did much better than Rispone in the primary, but most of those other votes were votes for another Republican. The questions is, how many of those would automatically go to Rispone, or how many could John Bel Edwards pick off? The other question is could they change turnout, because John Bel Edwards' turnout in the primary was pretty disappointing. And I know he's been very focused on that.

Q: Right, and he's been walking a tightrope on that because a key demographic for his is the African American vote, which didn't turn out very well in the primary. But even if he gets a big boost there, it is unclear whether that would be enough to push him over the top without scooping up a few Abraham voters. The messaging has been tricky. How do you think he is doing on that?

The messaging has been split. You know, one issue that probably plays okay with both groups is Medicaid expansion. He's been focusing very much on that, say that Rispone's idea to freeze it, what ever that means, would in effect kill it.

Q: Shifting gears a bit, last week we saw a pair of governor's races come to an end-- one in Mississippi and another in Kentucky where Republican incumbent Matt Bevin was narrowly defeated by Democrat Andy Bashear. You wrote a bit about that race over the weekend. What comparisons can be drawn between that and the contest here in Louisiana?

Matt Bevin was an incumbent and he was a Republican in a Republican state that President Donald Trump won by I think 30%. Donald Trump came in, did a big rally for him. Polls showed [Bevin's] approval raiting was in the mid-thirties, and yet he almost won.

John Bel Edwards has a kind of reverse situation. He's a Democrat in a Republican state. He has a good approval raiting. What really strikes me is his low disapproval raiting. If 38% say they don't like him, that means 62% are okay with him. Yet, a bunch of them are going to vote against him anyway and the question is how many. To me that says these races are being nationalized. They are more about party, they are more about the president. You know there's this kind of other dynamic there that really has nothing to do with performance.

Q: President Trump gave a lot of attention to Kentucky. With the 2020 presidential race on the horizon, how much stock is he putting in this contest and in other governor's races around the country?

He's looking for wins. He's looking for places where he can show that he still has a lot of support, I think, as he's facing impeachment, as he's facing some pretty bad national poll numbers. When you look at his tweets, he's taking credit for Matt Bevin in Kentucky being as close as he was, even though he lost, and [Trump], I think, would love to take credit for Eddie Rispone if Eddie Rispone wins.

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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