- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Republican turnout surged in early voting in Louisiana’s election this year in what one analyst in the state says is the beginnings of a backlash against Democrats’ fixation on impeaching President Trump.

All sides in the impeachment fight have been wondering how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s new push to lead impeachment proceedings would play out with voters, and John Couvillon, who runs JMC Analytics and Polling, says at least in Louisiana’s early test it appears to be helping the GOP more.

In a week of early voting last week, ahead of Saturday’s election, Republican turnout was up 84% compared to the 2015 election, while Democratic turnout was up just 36%.

“I would say it is a reaction against the Democrats pursuing impeachment, because even though it’s talk, you have to remember the Democrats, whether it’s deserved or not, appear to have had an itchy finger on the trigger,” Mr. Couvillon told The Washington Times.

His analysis has drawn pushback from other Louisiana voting experts who say not to read much into early voting. And Democrats point to an NBC early voting analysis in 2018 that suggested the GOP was more energized heading into last year’s elections — yet Republicans ended up getting shellacked in the final results.

“Anyone who tells you what the early vote numbers mean does not actually know what they are talking about. If they did, they would not be trying to read the tea leaves of the early vote,” wrote Mike Henderson, an assistant professor at Louisiana State University.

He said early voting is still relatively new in the state, but so far the relationship between the results from early ballots and the eventual election outcome is “weak and imprecise.” That’s particularly true in Louisiana, where a large number of voters cross party lines.

Mr. Couvillon, though, said it’s tough to ignore the surge of Republican interest in voting.

“You have a relatively low-wattage governor’s race and all of the sudden, day after day, I was seeing roughly doubly the early voting 2015 figures,” he said.

He pointed to the breakdown in Democrat-heavy Louisiana. In 2015, Democrats outpaced the GOP in early voting 44% to 31%. This year the breakdown was much closer, 43% to 42%.

Louisiana is the only real electoral test so far since Democrats took the first official steps toward impeachment. Kentucky and Mississippi, the other two states with governor’s elections this year, don’t do broad-based early voting.

The Louisiana Democratic Party didn’t respond to a request for comment.

But David Turner, communications director at the Democratic Governors Association, said he’s not seeing any evidence of an impeachment impact in the Louisiana race or the other two governor’s contests.

Mr. Turner said he and other Democrats working governor’s races in those red states had “some concerns” about spillover effects from impeachment, but as of now the races are being fought on state issues and aren’t being treated as a referendum on Mr. Trump and Democrats in Washington.

“Voters are smart and they know that their governor has absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on in the House of Representatives,” he said.

He said Republicans don’t appear to put much stock in the Louisiana early voting numbers. They’re deploying President Trump for a last-minute rally Friday, trying to keep incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards from winning a majority of the vote Saturday, which would avoid a runoff election.

Nationally, polls show impeachment support growing — though still shy of the overwhelming majority it would likely take to convince senators to actually oust Mr. Trump in a Senate trial.

Most of the growth of support is coming from Democrats who had been reluctant to embrace impeachment but who are now lining up. Republicans, though, are adamantly opposed, according to a Quinnipiac University poll this week that found just 6% say impeachment is the right step.

Mr. Couvillon said it doesn’t take much to sway some close races.

He pointed to last year’s Senate contests in states such as Florida, Tennessee and Texas, where he said Republican anger at the way Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was treated likely fueled GOP turnout — and helped carry the party’s candidates to victory in each of those states.

Mr. Couvillon said the impeachment push is likely having a similar “short-term” effect on elections now. Whether there’s staying power, he said, depends on what Democrats do next.

“If, let’s say, it peters out after a month or two, I would say the partisan feelings would dissipate as well,” he said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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