At a rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, President Trump talked about the al-Baghdadi raid and slammed Democrats.
WASHINGTON – When President Donald Trump steps out onto a rally stage Wednesday in Louisiana, it will be his third time in a solidly Republican Southern state in less than a week, an itinerary even he has described as surprising.
“I can’t believe this is a competitive race,” Trump told a crowd in Mississippi recently. “It’s, like, embarrassing. I’m talking to Mississippi, you know?”
The purpose of the president’s rallies in Mississippi, Kentucky and now Louisiana has been to push GOP gubernatorial candidates over the finish line in off-year elections. But Trump has tied those candidates’ fortunes to his own bid for reelection next year. And experts note his campaign also benefits as he stumps for others.
Trump will speak Wednesday at the rally in Monroe, Louisiana, to try to boost the state’s Republican candidate for governor, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who is looking to unseat Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards in a runoff election Nov. 16.
Independent forecasters such as Cook Political Report have described the contest as a tossup.
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The Louisiana rally follows Tuesday night’s gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi, both of which Trump has visited in recent days. The president won all three states in 2016 with healthy margins.
It’s easy to overestimate the potential impact of any campaign event, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value for the president to stump for candidates in states that are solidly Republican in presidential election years, said Princeton University political scientist Lauren Wright.
“It’s a low-risk way for him to test out his messages and garner attention for himself,” Wright said. “The right way to think about these events is generally attention-getting rather than vote-changing.”
Trump has largely overhauled his rally speech in recent weeks to respond to the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats. He has stepped up his rhetorical attacks on Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and has repeatedly questioned the loyalty of a handful of wavering Republicans.
At the rally in Lexington, Kentucky, on Monday, held on the eve of Tuesday’s off-year elections, supporters stood behind the president wearing “Read the Transcript!” T-shirts, a reference to the summary of his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The call is at the center of the impeachment investigation.
Trump urged voters to give Gov. Matt Bevin a second term in office, saying that while the unpopular incumbent may be “such a pain,” he has “put his whole life at stake to help this state.” Trump held another rally Friday in Tupelo, Mississippi, where Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves was running for governor against Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.
Underscoring that the outcome of the off-year elections could reflect on his own strength heading into 2020, Trump warned a crowd of supporters jammed inside a basketball arena that he would be blamed if Bevin lost to Beshear, the state’s attorney general.
“They are going to say ‘Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world,’ ” he said. “You can’t let that happen to me!”
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Trump already has spent a significant amount of time campaigning in Louisiana. He took to Twitter on Monday to urge voters to get out to the polls and said Edwards, the Democrat, “is always fighting our MAGA Agenda.”
Trump also has cut a campaign commercial for Rispone, calling him “a fantastic man, a great success” and boasting that “everything he’s touched has turned to gold.”
Wednesday’s rally will be the second time Trump has turned up in Louisiana to advocate for a GOP candidate in the governor’s race.
In October, he campaigned in Lake Charles and urged voters to replace Edwards with either Rispone or Rep. Ralph Abraham. The goal was to prevent Edwards from getting at least 50% of the vote and force a runoff that would improve Republican chances of taking back the governorship.
The strategy worked. Edwards got 46% of the vote and Rispone took 27%, setting the stage for next week’s runoff.
Michael Collins and John Fritze cover the White House. Reach Collins at @mcollinsNEWS and Fritze @jfritze.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/11/06/donald-trump-rally-louisiana-after-elections-kentucky-mississippi/4159275002/
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