With one 2019 gubernatorial prize still on the line, President Trump traveled to Louisiana a second time Wednesday night to campaign on behalf of the Republican candidate.
Mr. Trump held a rally in Monroe, in Louisiana’s northeast corner, for Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman who has self-financed his way into a runoff against incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The rally comes two days after Mr. Trump held a similar affair in Kentucky on behalf of the incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who narrowly lost to Democratic challenger Andy Beshear. Mr. Bevin is demanding a recount and claiming voter fraud.
The president hit on the themes he has been stressing on the 2019 campaign trail and warming up for his 2020 reelection bid, hitting both national and local issues.
“Under Republican leadership, the economy is booming and wages are rising,” Mr. Trump said. “How are your 401(k)s doing?”
It was that, rather than the Edwards administration, he said, that has helped the local economy and boosted energy production, long a source of Louisiana jobs but which has had a rocky past few years.
“Don’t ever forget it: They’re after your Second Amendment,” Mr. Trump warned about the Democrats. “The Republicans will never take away our Second Amendment.”
Mr. Trump also warmed up the crowd by announcing he would attend Saturday’s college football game between LSU and Alabama, teams The Associated Press currently has ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
Mr. Trump also riffed at length about “the impeachment hoax,” and talked for several minutes about perpetual attempts to undo his 2016 electoral victory and Wednesday’s revelation that Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistleblower, boasted about running a coup back in 2017, less than two weeks after Mr. Trump was inaugurated.
“These unhinged extremists have been plotting to undo the election,” he told the crowd. “These are bad people doing bad things.”
While making clear his chief purpose was to support Mr. Rispone, Mr. Trump also got in digs at his Democratic challengers in 2020, in particular former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. Mr. Trump pointed to the case of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter, who was handsomely paid as a consultant to a Ukrainian energy company.
Mr. Biden’s recorded boast he forced Ukraine to fire a state prosecutor in return for U.S. aid also drew Mr. Trump’s attention. Mr. Trump said that this presents a more dubious government move than his conversations with the Ukrainian president that pro-impeachment Democrats consider untoward.
“You talk quid pro quo, you fire the guy you get a billion dollars you don’t fire him you get nothing — that’s a quid pro quo,” Mr. Trump said.
Singling out a young boy in the crowd, Mr. Trump asked his age.
“Eight years old,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s eight and he knows energy better than Joe Biden’s son.”
Like the Democrats running for governor in Mississippi and Kentucky, Mr. Edwards has largely refrained from commenting on Mr. Trump and the impeachment circus that has been building in Washington.
Mr. Rispone, on the other hand, has done what he can to tie Mr. Edwards to the left-wing coastal leadership of congressional Democrats, who generally poll badly in Louisiana. Mr. Trump won the state easily in 2016 and appears poised to cruise again next year.
Mr. Rispone has poured more than $11.5 million of his own money into the campaign, pitching voters on the notion that an outsider would be the sort of jolt Baton Rouge needs to pull itself out of the low rankings Louisiana has held in many key metrics for decades.
He points to the trial lawyers who have been Mr. Edwards biggest financial backers. Mr. Rispone would like to see tort reform, and with Republicans building on their legislative majorities in Louisiana’s primary last month, such a goal has trial lawyers backing Mr. Edwards and a handful of judicial candidates in the campaign’s final weeks.
Early voting in Louisiana ends Saturday, and that was one of the main reasons Mr. Trump said he held rallies here this week, rather than closer to the Nov. 16 election day.
“They told me 40% of the vote was early,” Mr. Trump said. “I said, ‘I think I’ll go.’”
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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