Trump Takes Aim at the Deep South's Last Democrat Governor

Gov. John Bel Edwards talks about the state’s budget and his plans to call a special session for June to try to raise revenue to stave off cuts, on Thursday, May 5, 2016, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)


Over the weekend, the last Democrat governor in the deep south was forced into a runoff with a Republican businessman with a lot of money behind him.

Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards was able to capture 47 percent of the vote in Louisiana’s jungle (all-in) primary, and Eddie Rispone came in second place with 27 percent. Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham came in third with 24 percent of the vote.

Rispone’s win was unexpected just a few weeks ago, but a surge of spending on ads that attacked both Edwards and Abraham helped push him into second place. Also helping both him and Abraham was a series of visits from high-profile Trump allies – Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. – and a visit Friday night by President Donald Trump himself.

Trump has already come out swinging in his endorsement of Rispone.


I mentioned last week that Trump himself has a lot riding on this gubernatorial election, as it is a good test of how much the impeachment process in Washington D.C. might be affecting his base.

Morning Consult, meanwhile, has President Donald Trump with a +15 net favorability rating, and the lowest number you can find in any poll as far as approval goes is 54%. Among Republicans, his favorability is 94%.

With a gubernatorial race coming up this Saturday, and with every major candidate in the race making their support or relationship with Trump a central issue, it’s becoming a race to watch if you want to see the effect of the all the impeachment talk going on in Washington D.C.


This type of push, when there are two Republican candidates and a Democrat going into a jungle primary means that Trump isn’t just interested in beating Edwards. He’s using the state’s Republican turnout as a gauge of support for him.

It will hold true, still, and there are more than a few parallels between Trump and Rispone – as the latter has been quick to mention since the race started. Both are businessmen, neither had political experience prior to their campaigns, and both scored huge upsets to put themselves in the spotlight against the top Democrat in their race.


Now, Edwards has a tough race ahead of him, and if he can’t make the race as little about Trump as possible, it will likely be a major part of why he is defeated in November. Edwards will definitely go on the attack against Rispone, but he can’t afford to make any references to Trump because the Republicans appear highly motivated in this state right now – the state’s Senate will see a Republican supermajority and it could very well be matched up with a House supermajority if the runoffs in specific House races fall into Republican hands.

With a motivated Republican base, Edwards will attack but will also have to make it as non-partisan as possible (personal attacks on Rispone’s character have already started bubbling up). He simply can’t allow Trump to dominate the conversation, but Trump in all likelihood will try to continue to stay in the conversation.

Rispone, however, has to compete against Edwards and the state’s Republicans he pissed off when he decided to attack Abraham in the primary – something the state party cautioned any Republican against doing this election. There have been whisperings of Republicans who will stay home rather than vote for Rispone, but he needs Abraham and the other major Republicans in the state to back him up and show he can be a unifier.


And, Rispone will continue to make this race about Trump, because it was clearly successful in the primary. The Republican vote in the primary far outweighed the Democratic vote, and it looks like that enthusiasm is lingering. If the Republicans pull the win off and knock out the last Democrat governor in the Deep South, then Trump can count it as a victory and proof that his support isn’t wavering under the Democrats’ attacks in D.C.


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