Louisiana's Democratic Governor, John Bel Edwards, won a close re-election bid on Saturday, knocking back Republican challenger Eddie Rispone and handing Donald Trump another giant L for his growing pile of loser trophies.
In Louisiana, Mr. Trump had wagered significant political capital to try to lift Eddie Rispone, a businessman who ran against Mr. Edwards in large part by embracing the president and his agenda. Mr. Trump campaigned for Mr. Rispone twice in the final two weeks of the race, warning Louisiana voters that a loss would reflect poorly on his presidency — the same appeal he made in Kentucky earlier this month to try to help Gov. Matt Bevin, who ultimately lost.
Of the three governor’s races this year, all in deep red states, Republicans won only one, in Mississippi. Republicans also lost control of both chambers of the state legislature in Virginia, where many Democratic candidates were sharply critical of Mr. Trump.
The victory was a deeply personal one for Mr. Edwards, a conservative Democrat in a state and region where his party can often be a disqualifier in statewide races. He campaigned on his accomplishments in office, like balancing the budget, increasing education spending and expanding Medicaid. He also highlighted his conservative stances on abortion and guns and showcased his background as a West Point graduate and son of a sheriff, to appeal to right-leaning voters.
In his victory speech, Mr. Edwards said, “Our shared love for Louisiana is always more important than the partisan differences that sometimes divide us. And as for the president: God bless his heart.”
Before the election, Mr. Rispone, a construction magnate from Baton Rouge, had never before run for political office. He vaulted ahead after more prominent Republicans decided against running and became competitive against the governor after cloaking himself in Mr. Trump’s popularity.
The results indicated that many voters here were happy with the incumbent.
And on a night when the attention of many Louisianans was split between the election and the football game between top-ranked Louisiana State and the University of Mississippi, Mr. Edwards ventured an explanation for why voters were comfortable re-electing him.
“It is an easier state to govern when the Saints and LSU are winning,” he said in an interview. “People are just in a better mood.”
Rispone ran the Trump playbook to a T: wealthy businessman, never held office, ran as an outsider, savaged his Democratic opponent, fully embraced Trump and Trumpism.
He lost anyway. The story was the suburbs, where Bel Edwards outperformed and countered Rispone's advantage in the rural parts of the state. Just like in Kentucky and in Virginia, just like in 2018, suburban voters have turned on Trump and the GOP.
Trump couldn't save Matt Bevin. He couldn't help Eddie Rispone. And soon, he won't be able to save himself.