Louisiana reelects Democratic governor despite Trump begging for 'a big win, please'

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With the hold, voters have now given Democrats nine more governorships in the Trump era.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) was reelected in Saturday's gubernatorial runoff over conservative businessman Eddie Rispone by a margin of more than 40,000 votes, 51.34% to 48.66%. This came despite multiple interventions by Donald Trump, who won the state by nearly 20 points in 2016 and framed the race as a referendum on himself.

Last month, Edwards received just 46.69% in the state's jungle primary, while Rispone got 27.42% and Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) got 23.61%. After the top two candidates advanced to Saturday's runoff, Trump spent much of his time working to defeat Edwards.

According to Politico, Trump recorded get-out-the-vote calls and videos, invested $2 million in Republican National Committee funds, and twice traveled to the state for rallies —  in Monroe on Nov. 6  and Bossier City last Thursday — in support of Rispone. He repeatedly tweeted out pro-Rispone and anti-Edwards messages. Rispone also made much of his own campaign pitch about his strong support for Trump.

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At Thursday's rally, Trump told his supporters that "the eyes of history" were "looking upon the great people of Louisiana" and they needed to replace "radical, liberal John Bel Edwards" with "true Louisiana patriot, Eddie Rispone. Eddie Rispone, great guy." Much of his argument was that doing so would send a signal to Washington not about Baton Rouge politics but about Trump's own popularly.

"In two days, I really need you, but you really need you, to send a message to the corrupt Democrats in Washington," he told them. "They are corrupt. They are crazy, crazy."

Trump mentioned that his candidate, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, had lost reelection in Kentucky earlier this month despite his also making that race a referendum on himself and begged voters not to give him another defeat this time: "And the headlines the next day: Trump took a loss. I lift him up a lot. So Trump took a loss, so you got to give me a big win, please. OK? OK?"

Despite Trump's extensive efforts for Rispone — or perhaps because of them — Edwards actually increased his share of the vote in the runoff by nearly 5 points and won a second term.

With the 2019 campaign season now over, it marks the third straight election year in which Democrats have increased their share of governor positions. In 2017, Democrats gained the New Jersey governor seat and held on in Virginia. Last year, Democrats won seven Republican-held governorships — in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. (Republicans defeated a GOP-leaning independent in Alaska.) This year, with the gain in Kentucky and the hold in Louisiana, the number of states where voters replaced their Republican governor with a Democratic in the Trump era is up to nine.

Trump also unsuccessfully campaigned for a "red wave" in the 2018 congressional midterms — his party lost 41 House seats and its majority — and to keep the Virginia state legislature under Republican control in 2019. The Republican nominee in Mississippi, for whom Trump also campaigned, won by just 5.5 points in a state that had gone Republican by a 17.8 point spread in the 2016 presidential race. Trump even failed to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secure a plurality in September's Knesset elections.

Despite Trump's explicit framing that each of these races was a direct referendum on himself, a GOP spokesperson claimed this weekend that these losses had absolutely nothing to do with Trump.

"The gubernatorial results in 2019 in Kentucky and Louisiana are in no way a referendum on President Trump or a foreshadowing of the 2020 presidential election," RNC spokesman Steve Guest told the Washington Post. "The Democrats who ran for governor in those red states aren’t anything like the far left candidates running against President Trump."

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the runoff margin to 40,000. A previous version stated that the margin was 10,000.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.