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Poll numbers disguise Edwards' vulnerability

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards shouldn’t break his arm patting himself on the back. His latest poll numbers do nothing to remove his underdog status for reelection.

Southern Media Opinion Research released a survey asking for the popularity of several state political figures and opinion on a few issues. Three prominent national Republicans from Louisiana polled between 45-55 percent approval, but Edwards topped them at 65 percent. One, Sen. John Kennedy who drew 54 percent, some speculate may run against Edwards in 2019.

But history has demonstrated only the foolhardy extrapolate polling numbers not at the extremes to electoral strength. Disregarding that things can change in a hurry even to make very high or low numbers not indicative of future electoral performance – witness the sky-high ratings of former Pres. George H. W. Bush yet his losing reelection fewer than two years later – approval ratings occur in isolation, while elections do not. As a case in point, former Pres. Barack Obama’s number stayed under 50 percent for most of his first term, yet because the GOP put up a relatively weak candidate, he managed to score a second term.

SMOR pollster Bernie Pinsonat pointed out a related factor, in the more specific case of Louisiana: ratings depend upon talk of taxes and spending reflected in the news. Little of that has gone on at the state level since the end of the second legislative special session for Edwards, while during the polling period that’s all that was going at the federal level for the Republicans mentioned. Do a poll six months from now after weeks of talk of raising taxes in Louisiana and, unless he goes completely against type, Edwards will come in much lower.

By then the campaigning for governor will kick off, over which Edwards remains quite vulnerable. For example, say Kennedy does get in. Can you imagine the headwinds Edwards will have to face:

·    While all Edwards has talked about, and helped do during his term, is raise taxes, Kennedy can talk about how he cut taxes at the national level.

·    As Edwards’ re-appointees, former and present, to government positions find themselves mired in controversies about which he could have anticipated, Kennedy can suggest how this invalidates the “Honor Code” image Edwards blanketed across the state when he ran in 2015.

·    Kennedy can point out how Edwards hiked taxes over $200 million to expand Medicaid while many suffer under skyrocketing health insurance rates, backed by Edwards through his support of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), and contrast that to his own positions of asking Medicaid recipients to pay their fair share and his vote to repeal the Obamacare requirement that people must buy health insurance.

Nobody seriously would trade Kennedy’s positioning here for Edwards’. Or with any other prospective candidate: that no fewer than the state’s attorney general, two U.S. House of Representatives members, and a U.S. senator seem interested in Edwards’ post demonstrate his extraordinary weakness. And as soon as one or more of them begin to campaign in earnest, no matter how many ads Edwards tries to run backing his candidacy, his approval rating will drop, and significantly.

Not that the numbers on issues worked out very well for Edwards as it was. The public seemed divided as to desiring more spending cuts or higher taxes or whether to support Obamacare, and a majority saw the state, with him at the helm, headed in the wrong direction.

About the only genuinely good news for Edwards from this poll is he didn’t not come close to treading water or worse. That result would have signaled game over right now.

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