President Donald Trump returned to Louisiana Wednesday night to rally support for Republican candidate for governor Eddie Rispone.
“This has been an incredible state for Trump,” the president said in Monroe. “I think I’m coming back here on Thursday.”
Trump was referring to plans to hold another Louisiana rally in Bossier City on Nov. 14, two days before election day.
Wednesday night, Trump urged his supporters to vote early for Rispone and against Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, who he called “a radical liberal.” Early voting runs through Saturday.
“How did you get a liberal Democrat to be your governor?” Trump asked.
Rispone is the co-founder of a large industrial contracting business, and Trump praised his acumen, calling him a "business legend.” The president also called Rispone “pro-life and pro-second amendment,” descriptions that also apply to Edwards.
“Louisiana is Trump country!” Rispone declared. “We need a pro-Trump conservative [as governor].”
Rispone urged Trump supporters to send a message to liberals who want to impeach the president by electing a Republican governor.
“Go out and early vote and turn this state around!” Rispone said.
Trump and Rispone both praised Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham, who finished third in the Oct. 12 open primary for governor. Abraham briefly took the stage and urged the crowd to “get this thing done” and vote for Rispone.
“Eddie knows that he cannot win on the issues,” Edwards said Wednesday at a rally with supporters in Monroe. “He cannot win if this election is about Louisiana and what is best for our people. That’s why he’s trying to make this election about Washington, D.C.”
Throughout the campaign, Rispone has stressed his admiration for, and similarity to, Trump. Edwards has emphasized bipartisanship, noting that he has met with Trump nine times to discuss issues such as criminal justice reform and infrastructure.
Edwards supporters managed to have some fun with Trump’s visit. A tweet from the White House Twitter account Wednesday evening announcing Trump was “wheels up” for Louisiana went on to say “the Pelican State is booming–boasting its lowest unemployment rate since 2008, bringing back 5,000+ manufacturing jobs, and becoming one of our Nation’s leading states in natural gas exports.”
“I wonder who is the governor there?” responded Matthew Block, Edwards’ executive counsel. “Sounds like a pretty good record to run for re-election on.”
Both chambers of the state legislature are Republican controlled.
While Republicans hope the president’s visits will help push Rispone over the top, it is unclear whether Trump’s last visit had an impact. On Twitter after the polls closed, Trump seemed to argue that it did, saying Edwards went from “66% down to 47% after I explained what a bad job the Governor was doing.”
But if Trump was claiming Edwards was polling at 66 percent prior to his visit, his claim is not accurate. Polls consistently showed Edwards in the 40s.
Baton Rouge-based pollster John Couvillon noted strong Republican turnout in the primary, but said the trend showed up in the early voting totals before Trump’s visit. Mike Henderson, an assistant professor of political communication at LSU, found a “small effect” from Trump’s rally of about 2,300 additional Republican votes in the area near Lake Charles, where the rally was held.
Edwards, an attorney and former Army Ranger, noted that despite multiple visits, Trump was unable to help incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin win reelection in Kentucky, a state the president won by 30 points in 2016. The Kentucky margin was just over 5,000 votes and Bevin has asked for the totals to be double-checked.