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Conflict coming between Edwards' approval, agenda

Something’s going to have to give, and likely that means public approval of Democrat John Bel Edwards will fall unless he changes his agenda.

In a recent poll, Edwards checked in with about five-eighths of registered voters approving of his job performance, versus a third who disapproved. His rating came in a bit overstated, however, as the sample contained 49 percent Democrats compared to just 44 percent statewide, and that a significant gap appeared in judging him favorably between Democrats much more friendly to him and Republicans. Also worth considering: Democrats tend to turn out to vote in disproportionately fewer numbers than Republicans, by a small margin.

Still, it’s better than being barely above water as he was months ago, when then well under half approved. But going forward his agenda the public soundly rejects, creating a major problem for his elective career.

In the past year, Edwards stubbornly pitched tax increases right and left as a solution for spending higher than projected revenues. Some smaller spending cuts he offered; other he involuntarily swallowed at the hand of a Republican-led House of Representatives unwilling to pass higher taxes. Despite that, he still punched through in the neighborhood of $800 billion in increases and whined he could not get more – on top of $1.6 billion he voted for as a legislator that he, with his fellow state policy-makers, crammed down the throats of taxpayers the previous year.

At the time in the first quarter of 2016, public opinion seemed wary but unalarmed about any more tax increases, with about three-eighths saying they paid too much in taxes but almost as many saying they paid enough. Further, they favored increases in government spending in several high-profile areas.

Apparently, in the aftermath of the tax increases biting at the beginning of the year’s second quarter, the mood since has turned much more hostile to such hikes. In this latest poll, fully three fifths of respondents said the state spends too much while just a quarter said it needed more revenues. That clear message tells policy-makers that people don’t want higher levels of taxation and smaller government.

However, the Edwards Administration shows no signs that it heeds the demand. It already looks to go on the record supporting an increase in gasoline taxes and displays no evidence of seriously wanting to cut spending except when forced to by fiscal constraints.

So, Edwards must make a choice. Just because the public approves of a politician doesn’t mean a majority of it will vote for him, because if convinced someone about as popular represents an improvement, he’ll lose. For example, the same recent poll pegged Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry at about the same disapproval level as Edwards (their difference in approval coming because about 10 percent more of the sample cited too little familiarity with Landry to judge him than it did with Edwards). With these numbers as revealed in the poll, put Edwards’ demonstrated tax-and-spend agenda and his Democrat affiliation up against Landry’s well-known (and record in his one term in the U.S. House of Representatives) desire to right-size government and his GOP label, and Edwards probably loses.

Only by his agenda transforming to hold the line on taxes – including allowing a roll back of the temporary increases he supported – and thereby necessarily containing big government can Edwards hold his own in 2019. If he fails to follow this course, look for a steady decline in his popularity and, barring unusual circumstances, certain defeat in his reelection attempt. It’s all up to him to choose his future fate in office.

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