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Is It the Message or the Man?

Sue Lincoln

With the final election of 2016 tomorrow, what can be learned from how Louisiana voted last month and last year?

“Fear and anger are the two most powerful motivating factors in politics,” says the Gambit’s Clancy DuBos.

“Branding matters,” says LSU Public Policy Lab director Michael Henderson.

The duo, along with Tyler Bridges of The Advocate, participated in a panel discussion put on by the Council for a Better Louisiana Thursday. They talked about the polls leading up to the presidential election.

“Were the polls really that wrong?” DuBos asked Henderson.

“Rigged. They’re rigged,” Henderson responded, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Joking aside, Henderson says political polling is more complicated than just totaling answers from the people who are called.

“What you’re trying to do as a political pollster is you’re trying to make a guess about a population that does not exist yet,” Henderson explained. “You’re making a guess about an electorate that hasn’t shown up and cast any votes yet.”

A year before both the 2015 and 2016 elections, few would have guessed – much less bet -- either John Bel Edwards or Donald Trump would ultimately win, mostly because the fundamentals of political analysis said they couldn’t. But DuBos says – it actually comes down to the concept that “the political is personal”.

“When people talk about fundamentals, they talk about party labels; they talk about trends. But people don’t vote for fundamentals, they vote for people,” said DuBos. “To me, the most fundamental fundamental of them all is the candidate.”

DuBos, who edited Long Shot, the new Tyler Bridges and Jeremy Alford book about the 2015 governor’s race, was asked about the two candidates left in tomorrow’s U.S. Senate race. Specifically, with Campbell aligned with Edwards, and Kennedy aligned with Vitter, are last year’s results an omen for tomorrow night? Dubose says no.

“Foster Campbell has literally grafted, pretty much, John Bel Edwards’ campaign team onto his campaign team. The problem is, he didn’t strap on a parachute and grab a rifle and jump out of airplanes and go to West Point. And John Kennedy didn’t frequent prostitutes and have all those other issues.”