MONROE, La. (AP) — President Donald Trump worked up a sweat in a steamy Louisiana arena Wednesday night as he attempted to boost Republican businessman Eddie Rispone’s effort to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the nation’s last governor’s race of the year.
“It may be 120 degrees in this room,” Trump told the crowd at the end of a rally in the northeastern Louisiana city of Monroe.
“Somebody is saving on air conditioning,” Trump joked. “That’s all right. You’ve always got to save a little money. You go home and you lose about nine pounds and you say, ‘What happened?'”
The gubernatorial runoff election in Louisiana offers Trump an opportunity to pick up a win in a rare Democratic-held governor’s seat in the Deep South and change the narrative after a pair of apparent setbacks this week for the Republican party in Kentucky and Virginia.
“You’re going out to replace a radical, liberal Democrat as your governor,” Trump said. “John Bel Edwards has not done the job.”
Trump is going all in with the Louisiana governor’s race.
The White House confirmed he would visit Bossier City on Nov. 14, two days before Louisiana voters head to polls. Trump also visited Lake Charles last month to encourage voters to back one of the Republicans ahead of the state’s open primary. Because no candidate won a majority in the October primary, the top two vote-getters — Edwards and Rispone — advanced to the Nov. 16 runoff.
Trump told the friendly audience that a vote for Rispone is a vote for his agenda, which he said Democrats have tried to hamstring through an impeachment inquiry.
“The American people are fed up with Democrat lies, hoaxes, smears, slanders and scams. The Democrats’ shameful conduct has created an angry majority. And that’s what we are,” Trump said. “We’re a majority, and we’re angry, that will vote the do-nothing Democrats out of office in 2020.”
With Wednesday’s visit to Monroe, Trump waded into the heart of the congressional district represented by Republican Ralph Abraham, the third-place finisher in last month’s gubernatorial primary. Both Rispone and Edwards are competing for Abraham’s voters. Polls show a tight race, with few undecided and both campaigns hoping Trump will mobilize voters in their bases.
Trump called Abraham “a better man” than him for getting behind Rispone after a hard-fought primary. Abraham urged voters to get out the vote for Rispone.
“Eddie, let’s get this thing done,” Abraham said. “Put the horse in the barn.”
A longtime Republican political donor who has poured millions of his own dollars into the campaign, Rispone has tied his candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in TV ads by talking about his support for the president.
“We need a pro-Trump, good servant,” Rispone said at the rally. “Someone who is not beholden to special interests, … someone like Trump.”
The owner of an industrial contracting firm, Rispone avoids many specifics about what he would do in office. He regularly compares himself to Trump, declaring both are “conservative outsiders.”
Edwards, a former state lawmaker and military veteran, has downplayed national issues in favor of a defense of his own performance. Both anti-abortion and pro-gun, Edwards in many ways doesn’t match the platform of the national Democratic Party. But he holds positions that helped him draw support in 2015 from the Republican and independent voters he needs to win again.
At a campaign stop Wednesday in Monroe, Edwards pointed to the Kentucky governor’s race, where results showed Democrat Andy Beshear in the lead by a few thousand votes over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, a Trump ally. Edwards said Kentucky voters didn’t cast their ballots based on Trump’s visits, and he expects Louisiana voters won’t either. Trump had joined Bevin at a Kentucky rally hours before Tuesday’s vote.
“The people of Louisiana, like the people of Kentucky, they will decide this race based on Louisiana issues, not Washington, D.C., issues,” Edwards said.
At the Monroe rally, Trump was also joined by Louisiana’s two Republican senators and two of its biggest TV celebrities: “Duck Dynasty” star Willie and Phil Robertson.
“I got it down to this,” said Phil Robertson. “If you are pro-God and pro-America and pro-gun and pro-duck hunting, that’s all I want.”
Deslatte reported from Baton Rouge.