(WAFB) - President Donald Trump announced Sunday, Oct. 6 he is heading to Lake Charles, La. to campaign for the two major Republican candidates for Governor of Louisiana.
In a Tweet, Pres. Trump says his rally scheduled for Friday, Oct. 11 will be aimed at keeping current Governor John Bel Edwards, the Deep South’s only Democratic governor, below 50 percent in Saturday’s election and “force a runoff.”
Recently published polls show Edwards close to the number he needs to win the election without a runoff.
Results of a new WAFB/Gray Media poll on the governor’s race will be released Monday.
The rally appears to be part of a strategy built by Republican leadership to boost support for both GOP Gubernatorial candidates, Eddie Rispone and Ralph Abraham, without explicitly throwing support behind either one. Vice President Mike Pence played his part in that strategy by hosting a rally in New Orleans Saturday, Oct. 5 to encourage voters to unite in support of the “Republican cause." The Vice President was careful to use neutral language and avoided endorsing either candidate as the party’s favorite.
Both Abraham and Rispone presented a united front at that rally, though their campaigns have previously engaged in a fair share of mudslinging toward each other.
After Pres. Trump announced the rally, both Republican candidates took a moment to praise Pres. Trump’s decision to visit the state to swing votes on the eve of Election Night.
“I’m excited to welcome my friend President Trump to Louisiana," said Abraham in a statement. "In Congress, I’ve worked with our President to Make America Great Again. I can’t wait to work with him as the next Governor of Louisiana.”
Rispone said he was “thankful and excited” to have the President visit to “turn Louisiana red.”
"We need a conservative, outsider, and businessman to turn this state around. As governor, I’ll work with Trump to make Louisiana great again,” said Rispone.
Eric Holl, spokesman for the John Bel for Louisiana campaign was less ecstatic about the news.
“It’s no surprise that the President is supporting members of his own political party. This last-minute rally is proof that the partisan forces in Washington realize that Gov. Edwards is supported by a wide range of people in Louisiana, from every political party and every background. Gov. Edwards has that support because he’s put Louisiana first, working across party lines to turn a record deficit into a surplus, expand health care for working people and give teachers their first pay raise in a decade. Gov. Edwards will keep putting people over politics in his second term,” Holl said in a statement.
Other statements came from Louisiana’s Republican politicians, including U.S. Sen. John Kennedy who called the election “important to Louisiana’s future.”
"Under the current governor, taxes are sky high and families are struggling,” Sen. Kennedy in the statement. “President Trump cares about Louisiana, and he wants to help put this state on a better path. I am thrilled that he is coming back to Louisiana.”
Kennedy was once rumored to be running for governor and would have faced Edwards, but in December of 2018 he announced he decided not to run.
Louisiana saw an uptick in voter turnout compared to previous elections during the early voting period which began Saturday, Sept. 28 and went through Saturday, Oct. 5. Both Eddie Rispone and Governor John Bel Edwards voted early.
Abraham will vote on Election Day which will take place Saturday, Oct. 12.