Two Days Before Louisiana Governor’s Election, Trump Hosts Rally for Republican

BOSSIER CITY, La. — President Trump touched down in Louisiana on Thursday, two days before the election for governor here, in an effort to push Eddie Rispone, the Republican nominee, to victory and flex his own political muscle at a moment when Democrats are accelerating their impeachment inquiry.

Making his second visit in two weeks to heavily Republican north Louisiana, Mr. Trump was hoping to break open a deadlocked race between Mr. Rispone and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a moderate Democrat who has carefully avoided criticizing the president in a state where he remains fairly popular.

With House Democrats beginning public hearings as part of their impeachment proceedings over Mr. Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, Republicans are eager to show that his core supporters remain loyal and that he can deliver a victory in the conservative Deep South.

And Mr. Trump is under more pressure to deliver after he appeared on the day before Election Day this month in Kentucky but failed to lift the deeply unpopular incumbent, Gov. Matt Bevin, to victory. Mr. Bevin conceded defeat Thursday as a recanvass of the state’s votes made clear that Andy Beshear won.

Mr. Trump’s task here is not much easier. Mr. Edwards, who supports gun rights and opposes abortion rights, is relatively popular and Mr. Rispone, a business executive and donor, is a first-time candidate who is not well known in the state.

But with two appearances in the closing weeks of the race, the president has put his political capital on the line for Mr. Rispone as part of an effort to rebuff any speculation about his declining clout.

And the Republican nominee here has done his part to increase the stakes for the White House, linking himself to Mr. Trump at every turn. Mr. Rispone began the race with an ad depicting the “Trump” bumper sticker he placed on his pickup truck. He has also echoed the president’s outsider appeals and pet issue, arguing that a state government needs a businessman while assailing Mr. Edwards over immigration.

The governor, while refusing to take on Mr. Trump, has portrayed Mr. Rispone as one who is grasping the president’s coattails and attempting to “nationalize this race.”

“He cannot win this race based on Louisiana issues because he hasn’t demonstrated any knowledge about how state government works,” Mr. Edwards told supporters in nearby Shreveport on Thursday afternoon. “He doesn’t have any vision for the state of Louisiana.”

A West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, Mr. Edwards has expanded Medicaid, raised teachers’ pay and also some taxes in an effort to balance the state’s budget. This is the president’s third visit to the state in just over a month. He appeared last month in Lake Charles, La., as part of an effort to boost Republican turnout in Louisiana’s all-party primary. Mr. Rispone narrowly edged out Representative Ralph Abraham, a Republican, to claim a spot in the runoff against Mr. Edwards and not all the wounds have healed from the Rispone-Abraham contest.

That’s why the president has returned to the same part of the state — it is Mr. Abraham’s home base — in an effort to rally Republicans. The Louisiana race is the last contest of the off-off 2019 election cycle. While Republicans retained the governorship in Mississippi, where Mr. Trump appeared on behalf of Governor-elect Tate Reeves, Republicans lost the Kentucky race and the Virginia legislature after a surge of support for Democrats in cities and suburbs.