BATON ROUGE, La. (NEXSTAR) – A new poll shows Baton Rouge businessman and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone making gains in the race for Louisiana governor, but not likely enough to displace Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham from a runoff slot against incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards.

According to an exclusive Nexstar poll conducted by JMC Analytics and Polling in Baton Rouge, Edwards and Abraham remain the front-runners in the race. Edwards remains firmly in the lead with 41%, up from 38% in April. Abraham is second with 24% and Rispone is third with 16%.

According to an exclusive Nexstar poll conducted by JMC Analytics and Polling in Baton Rouge, incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards remains firmly in the lead with 41%, up from 38% in April. (Source: Nexstar Media/JMC Analytics and Polling)

16% of those polled were undecided, and much less Republican than it was several months ago. 

The poll also finds that, while Edwards has seen an increase in support from white Democrats (going from 40 to 47%), white Independents (going from 28 to 33%), and Republicans (going from 14 to 17%), the entry of Democrat Omar Dantzler into the race has slightly eroded his African-American support. His support among that voter demographic declined from 71 to 69%, while 3% of African-Americans currently support Dantzler.

The data gathered September 14-17 in the Nexstar-commissioned poll doesn’t show that Gov. Edwards can win in the first primary, although analysis shows that the numbers are “tantalizingly close:” if you combine Governor Edwards’ 41% with undecided African-Americans (5.5% of the electorate), that demographic in addition to the Dantzler vote equals 48%. The combined Republican vote (as well as undecided Republicans) represents 44% of the electorate.  

So who are the undecideds? In April, 41% of undecideds were Republicans and 22% were African-American. In this poll, 35% of undecideds are African-American and 22% are Republican. That means that the 43% who are undecided white Democrats/Independents hold the theoretical “balance of power.”  

In conclusion, analysis finds the Governor’s race has not changed much over the last several months: the remaining questions are (1) the extent to which Eddie Rispone can eliminate his poll deficit against Congressman Ralph Abraham, and (2) the extent to which Governor Edwards can gain additional support from undecideds.

Additional poll results on a variety of topics impacting Louisiana will be released over the next 36 hours. The poll’s margin of error is 3.8%. Click here for the polling crosstabs.

Edwards, Abraham, and Rispone, will face off Thursday night in a televised debate.

The debate will air statewide at 7 p.m. in front of a live audience at LSU’s Union Theatre in Baton Rouge. KTAL NBC 6 parent company Nexstar Media Group is hosting the debate in collaboration with the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication.

KTAL NBC 6 anchor Jacque Jovic and WVLA’s Fred Childers and Chad Sabadie will serve as moderators of the debate. They will deliver questions to the candidates focused on topical local and regional issues impacting communities across Louisiana, including education, health care, infrastructure, and the economy, as well as candidate-specific subjects.

The debate will be televised statewide and available streaming live starting at 7 p.m. CT Thursday. Click here for details.

The one-hour debate will air on KTAL NBC 6, WNTZ-TV, WVLA-TV (NBC), WGMB (FOX), KLFY-TV (CBS), KTVE-TV (NBC), in addition, to select television broadcast partners including KSWL-TV (CBS) and WGNO-TV (ABC), as well as radio broadcast partners KSYL, KMLB, KRMD, KVOL, KLCL, News Talk 99.5 WRNO in New Orleans, and WJBO News Radio 1150 AM and 97.7 FM in Baton Rouge, which together cover all 64 parishes in the Pelican State. Local viewers may also access a live-stream of the debate online by visiting their local Nexstar station’s website (see table below for more information).The Louisiana Governor Primary Debate is scheduled to take place at Louisiana State University Union Theater (310 LSU Student Union) in Baton Rouge, LA. The primary will be held October 12, with a runoff election (if necessary) on November 19.