Gov. John Bel Edwards defeated Republican Eddie Rispone in the run-offs on Saturday with 51-49 percent. This happened after Edwards failed to gain a majority in an election last month when Republican candidates beat Democrats 52-47% ahead of them.
The victory of the Democrat on Saturday is further proof of the limitations of Trump's attractiveness and the importance of candidate quality even in our highly polarized time.
Edwards received 90% of the votes in the urban community of Orleans and 66% of the votes in the partially urban and partially suburban community of East Baton Rouge. They are home to the two most populous cities in the state (New Orleans and Baton Rouge). Trump lost both in 201
6. Nevertheless, Democrat Hillary Clinton won only Orleans with 81% and East Baton Rouge with 52%. The 90% of Edwards in Orleans is particularly impressive as he won 87% in 2015, when he won the election nationally for the first time with 56% of the vote.
The exodus of suburbs from the Republicans is most clearly seen in Jefferson Parish on the border with Orleans. Edwards won it with 57% of the votes on Saturday. That was impressive. Clinton won only 41% of the votes there in 2016. Heck, Edwards scored a slim 51% in his win in 2015.
Why Edwards Wins
However, Louisiana's outcome was not just about persuasion – the transformation of a republican into a democratic one. Turnaround changes may have made the difference between a 50% drop from Edwards and a dimming in the outflow. In particular, the increase in black turnout. In the heavily African-American communities of Caddo, East Baton Rouge and Orleans, voter turnout increased relative to the "Jungle Primary" of Louisiana in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, competed by about 15-30% others and the first both went up because no candidate reached the majority.
The parishes in the rest of the state saw a smaller increase in voter turnout.
This trend in early voting data indicated that African Americans would make up more voters in the runoff than in the primeval forest primaries in October.
The higher turnout was reminiscent of the special elections in Alabama in 2017. The large turnout by African-Americans has helped Democrat Doug Jones stay ahead in these elections. The same could probably be said about Edwards in Louisiana.
If Democrats find a way to mobilize black voters (who strongly reject Trump) in 2020 in a way they did not do in 2016, it could help them on key battlefields such as Florida, North Carolina, and Michigan. The mobilization of black voters was an issue for Democrats during the Trump era in some elections.
One key to avoiding black voters is not relying solely on Trump as a foil. The fact is, Edwards won in Louisiana not because of Trump, but because Edwards was a popular governor with a 50% approval rating north. He had a strong attraction for the black community in particular.
What Edwards demonstrated on Saturday is that Trump is not everything in elections. The races across the country may show national trends, but the candidates still play a role. We also saw that in Kentucky. Democrat Andy Beshear won the Governor's Mansion in Kentucky as Republican Governor Matt Bevin had a far greater than 50% approval rate.
On their way to 2020, Democrats must find the right candidates to use the tailwind. If they do, they will probably have a good year in 2020. If they do not, we could have a repeat of 2016, when Trump and the Republicans in general have won a "less than two evil" contest.