Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is headed to a runoff after failing to capture 50% in yesterday's statewide election, against the state's version of Trump. businessman Eddie Rispone.
Edwards was unable to pass the 50 percent threshold; he received 47 percent of the votes cast, according to the AP, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Rispone, meanwhile, held off a fellow Republican, Rep. Ralph Abraham, 27 percent to 24 percent, to capture second place and earn a head-to-head shot against Edwards on Nov. 16.
The outcome of the primary sets up a potentially very competitive general election. While pre-primary polls showed Edwards with significant leads over both Republicans in possible runoffs, GOP candidates combined for more than half the vote on Saturday.
"Over half of Louisiana voters went to the polls today and cast a ballot for someone other than John Bel Edwards," noted Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, who added that Rispone "will unite Republicans and all Louisianans who want to build a better future for their state."
Edwards, a conservative, anti-abortion Democrat who’s avoided close associations with the national Democratic party, framed his campaign as for “people over politics,” a phrase the Edwards campaign painted on the side of his campaign RV. The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, sent some voters a robocall recorded by former President Barack Obama. The minute-long robocall featured Obama praising Edwards for expanding Medicaid in the state.
But national and state Republicans made a heavy push in the closing week of the race to hold Edwards below 50 percent. President Donald Trump held an election-eve campaign rally in Lake Charles on Friday night, standing alongside both Rispone and Abraham as he urged Louisianans to vote for one of the GOP candidates and deny Edwards the outright victory. The two Republicans also appeared at similar events over the past week with Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son.
Trump celebrated the results Saturday night — and took credit for preventing Edwards from winning a second term. Edwards, Trump said on Twitter, "has done a poor job" as governor, and he called Rispone "a great Republican" in all caps. He also claimed, without evidence, that "after I explained what a bad job [Edwards] was doing," the Democrat's poll numbers dropped from 66 percent to the 47 percent he received on Saturday. Edwards' highest vote share in pre-primary public polling was 52 percent, according to RealClearPolitics, a website that compiles public polls.
The reality is that Louisiana's jungle primary system, much like California's, makes for some interesting matchups and a lot of runoffs. Trump can scream all he wants to, he certainly did in yet another bizarre, rambling, racist rally on Friday where he threatened to sue Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff for trying to impeach him.
Still, the outcome was expected. Bel Edwards won with 52% of the vote four years ago in a runoff, and he's widely expected to have another close election again.