Gov. John Johnson Bell Edwards defeated Republican Eddie Ripson by 51% to 49% in Saturday's runoff. This comes after Edwards failed to win a majority in last month's election, in which Republican candidates combined effectively beat Democrats with a margin of 52% to 47%.
Saturday's Democratic victory is yet another demonstration of the limits of Trump's appeal and the importance of candidate quality even in our deeply polarized era.
Edwards came in with 90% of the votes in the Orleans City Parish and 66% of the votes in the partially urban and partially suburban parish of East Button Rouge. They are home to the two most populous cities (New Orleans and Button Rouge) in the state. Trump lost both in 2016. However, Democrat Hillary Clinton only won the Orleans with 81% and East Button Rouge with 52%. 90% of Edwards in Orleans is particularly impressive given that he received 87% of that in 2015, when he first won the statewide election with 56% of the vote.
The movement of suburban areas further away from Republicans is most clearly seen in the Preeperson Parish, on the border with Orleans. Edwards won with 57% of the vote on Saturday. This was impressive. Clinton won just 41% of the vote there in 2016. Jack, Edwards took a large majority of 51% in his 2015 victory.
Why Edwards wins
Louisiana's result was not just about persuasion – changing the Republican vote to Democratic – however. Changes in turnovers could make the difference between Edwards not to fall by 50% in the primary and overshadow him in the second round. Specifically, the increase in response to black. In strong African-American, Caddo, East Button Rouge and Orleans parishes, turnout increased by about 15% to 30% over Louisiana last month. "Primary jungle" – in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, opposed each other and the first two advanced because no candidate won a majority.
Parisians in the rest of the country have seen a slight increase in turnout.
This trend in early voting data has suggested that African Americans should garner a larger share of voters in the runoff than in the October jungle first.
The higher turnout of blacks echoed what happened at the 2017 special Senate elections in Alabama. Much of the African-American tour helped Democrat Doug Owens get to the top of that election. The same can be said for Edwards in Louisiana.
If Democrats can figure out a way to mobilize black voters (who dislike Trump) in 2020 in a way they didn't in 2016, it could help key battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina and Michigan. Black voter mobilization is a problem for Democrats some elections during the Trump era.
One key to getting black voters out is to not rely solely on Trump as a foil. The fact is that Edwards wins in Louisiana not because of Trump, but because Edwards is a popular governor with a approval rating of 50% north. He especially had a serious appeal to the black community.
What Edwards demonstrated on Saturday is that Trump is not everything when it comes to elections. Races around the country may show national trends, but candidates are still important. That's the same thing we saw in Kentucky. Democrat Andy Besser succeeded in winning the governor of Kentucky's backyard because Republican Governor Matt Bevin had a approval rating of 50% in the south.
Aside from 2020, Democrats need to find the right candidates to take advantage of their tails on their backs. If they do, they are likely to have a good 2020. If they do not, we may repeat 2016, when Trump and the Republicans won a "less than two evil" contest.