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Abraham poses serious threat to Edwards

If Louisiana Republican activists had seen the GOP’s Sen. John Kennedy as the toughest challenger to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham shouldn’t disappoint them.

Earlier this week, Kennedy took a pass on running for the state’s top job, disheartening some hoping to dump Edwards. Today, Abraham, after saying for months he gave serious consideration to taking on Edwards, made the plunge.

Epitomizing his penchants both for pettiness and hypocrisy, Edwards commented “[f]or the sake of the people of Louisiana, it is my hope that he seriously considers whether or not he is capable of running for governor while fulfilling his duties in Washington, DC.” Of course, Edwards ran for governor while a state representative, and he seemed unconcerned at the time about whether he could do that job while splitting time with campaigning for two years.

In Abraham, the race receives someone largely ideologically similar to Kennedy. While his American Conservative Union scorecard lifetime voting number of 82 falls about 10 points below the rest of the state’s Republican delegation (with 100 signaling a perfectly conservative set of votes), it actually slightly exceeds what Kennedy rang up in his first year.

Abraham represents the most far-flung congressional district in America outside of states with just a single House member, which incorporates all but the western edge of the state and the southernmost coast. Taking advantage of that, for his recently-concluded reelection campaign he produced generic advertisements promoting a general image of conservatism, character, and competence that played in media markets with a majority of the state’s population.

That tactic already may have started to build his middling name recognition. Months ago, over a fifth of statewide polled voters couldn’t tell whether they would vote for him over Edwards because they didn’t know him. In that matchup, Edwards led 51-29 percent, which brought both good and bad news for the incumbent – good that he could get above 51 percent, but bad because were Abraham better known likely Edwards would lose support, and any incumbent who can’t pull over 45 percent in a head-up contest is in trouble.

As Abraham began running the ads, another poll put Edwards’ advantage at 48-35. But this was with two-thirds of respondents saying they didn’t even know of Abraham.

Thus, Abraham’s first task is to build wider recognition. If he succeeds, not only does he have a solid conservative record more in tune with the state’s voters, but he can match Edwards on the distractive issues – the ones that Edwards will emphasize to distract from a tax-and-spend governorship that has delivered one of the worst economic records in the country and promises more of the same things that have put Louisiana behind pretty much every other state in economic and quality-of-life terms.

Abraham actually presents better credentials on these distractive issues. He has more consistent pro-life and anti-gun control credentials than does Edwards, who also during his previous campaign reminded anyone paying attention of his Army service. But, guess what, Abraham also is a veteran and, while Edwards did more sightseeing than business on three trips abroad, Abraham’s overseas travels often feature a heavy dose of his providing humanitarian assistance.

Edwards knows this, hence his vituperative statement upon learning of Abraham’s entrance. As long as Abraham can secure the backing to disseminate information about himself, he presents a serious threat to another four years of Edwards.

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