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National Politics 'Front and Center' in Final Days of Louisiana Governor's Race

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) embraces Vice President Mike Pence at a rally for the Republican candidates for governor Oct. 5, 2019 in Kenner, La.
Paul Braun
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) embraces Vice President Mike Pence at a rally for the Republican candidates for governor Oct. 5, 2019 in Kenner, La.

Controversies in national politics have simmered on the back-burner in the Louisiana Governor's race for months. However, over the weekend President Donald Trump and his allies turned up the heat, announcing a flurry of campaign events in the state in the last days before the October 12 primary.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a "Unity Rally" for U.S. Congressman Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone, the top-two GOP challengers in the race. Donald Trump Jr. headlined a similar event in Lafayette on Monday, and President Donald Trump will hold a rally on Friday.

On this week's Capitol Access, Stephanie Grace, columnist for The New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune discusses how that could affect the Gov. John Bel Edwards reelection bid.

Q: National Republicans had remained for the most part, pretty quiet about this contest until last week. President Trump took a position in the race in a tweet, sort of... Give us a rundown.

He took an anti- position, not a pro- position. He basically said 'Vote for one of the Republicans,' which has been the party line all along. The party apparatus has not chosen between the two major Republicans challenging John Bel Edwards. They're hoping to get to the next stage when one of them survives-- we don't know which one, we don't know if either one will. They're worried they're not going to get there. This isn't a pro-Rispone or a pro-Abraham move this week to get all the national Republicans here. It's an anti-Edwards move. It's an anti-Democratic move.

Q: Republicans are betting that bring national politics into this race will boost enthusiasm with their base. But do they run the risk of firing up some of the more liberal Democrats who otherwise wouldn't be that enthusiastic about voting for Edwards because of his moderate and, in some cases, pretty conservative policy positions?

I think that's really the case. I've had people ask me this, people who are more liberal than John Bel Edwards and very upset in particular about the abortion bill that he signed with no exceptions for rape and incest. They're saying, 'Why should I bother voting for this guy?' The argument there is, and I'm not making an argument for or against, but if you are a liberal voter, or more liberal than John Bel Edwards and not that enthusiastic about him, you're not gonna get anybody who's more in tune to your politics. You're only gonna get somebody who's less in tune with your politics. Having Trump and Pence here really does emphasize that.

Q: At the Pence rally on Saturday, the vice president's speech included a major theme from President Trump's tweets about the race, saying essentially that a vote for Edwards was a vote for a Nancy Pelosi/Chuck Schumer style Democrat. Are Louisianans buying that message?

I mean we'll find out Saturday. I suspect not, in large part because John Bel Edwards at this point is very well known. I feel like that line of argument, this party-line line of argument, appeals to people who already want to vote for a Republican. I don't see how it really gets to swing voters. To me that says the pure party-line argument is not that powerful.

Q: Let's just say the strategy works and on Sunday we're looking at a runoff. How does the race change, and what are Edward's odds?

I think Republicans would make the argument that no governor who has been forced into a runoff reelection has won. And I mean certainly if he gets below say 45, I think you would look at him as being in trouble. If he gets 49 and a half percent, I don't know. Um, it could play both ways, but it's, it's not good for him. I mean, he, he would absolutely like to win on Saturday and anything short of that is assigned that a majority of people showed up to vote once someone other than the sitting governor. And that certainly would be a, her concern for him.

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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