Election 2020 Trump (copy)

Eddie Rispone and President Donald Trump at a rally in Monroe earlier this month.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump spent weeks bashing Gov. John Bel Edwards as a “tax-and-spend liberal” and “socialist,” and calling into question Edwards’ well-documented opposition to abortion and support for gun rights. But with the 2019 governor’s race in the rear-view mirror, Trump appears to be looking to hit a restart on his relationship with Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.

Edwards narrowly won a second term Saturday.

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo confirmed the president privately called Edwards on Monday afternoon to say he "ran a hell of a campaign" and looks forward to getting back to work with his one-time ally that he has been railing against in recent weeks.


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The president hasn’t publicly acknowledged the outcome of the Louisiana race, though he spent Sunday online, tweeting dozens of times about his rival presidential candidate Joe Biden and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff. Trump even plugged U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s Fox News appearance over the weekend.

A Trump spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request from this newspaper for comment on the Louisiana election results and Trump's impact in the race.

Trump had made a hefty pitch for Edwards’ ouster, holding three rallies in Louisiana in the past month alongside Edwards’ Republican rival Eddie Rispone. Two of the rallies took place in the final two weeks of the election cycle.

Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman, repeatedly compared his business-driven background to Trump's, and campaigned on his fondness for Trump.

“You got to give me a big win, please, O.K.,” Trump urged a crowd in Bossier City last week.

Before the field was set in the Louisiana governor’s race, Trump had tried to convince Scalise, a Jefferson Republican, to challenge Edwards but he declined. Other high-profile Republicans in Louisiana also opted not to enter the race, including Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, an Alto Republican, came in third place in the primary. He endorsed Rispone in the runoff, despite a bitter primary campaign for the chance to go up against Edwards.

Republicans have widely credited Trump's appearance in the state before the all-candidate primary with preventing Edwards from getting over the 50% threshold that he needed to pass to avoid a runoff. 

Trump campaigned for Republicans in all three states electing governors in 2019. Ultimately, the GOP only won the race in Mississippi.

When Kentucky voters rejected Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin's attempt at a second term, Trump tweeted that Bevin “picked up at least 15 points in last days, but perhaps not enough (Fake News will blame Trump!).”

Trump's 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale also released a statement on the Kentucky race, claiming that the president's election eve rally "helped five of six Kentucky Republicans win clear statewide victories." "The president just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end," he said.

There hasn’t been such a response to the Louisiana outcome.

Trump and Edwards had mostly maintained a friendly relationship until the campaign ramped up.

The president invited Edwards and his wife, Donna, to a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron in April 2018. Edwards was the only Democrat who made it onto the White House’s list of VIP attendees.

Edwards also scored an invitation to a criminal justice reform summit at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and was one of two Democratic governors asked to sit at Trump's table when the president met with the National Governors Association at the White House in 2018.

“The president and I might be of different parties, but we have a great working relationship,” Edwards told a group of supporters during a campaign rally last week.

During a rally in Louisiana in October, Trump alluded to a falling out with Edwards based on something he said he heard about the governor.

“John Bel Edwards, not good. Goes around saying ‘I like Trump very much,’ but behind my back he doesn’t like me,” Trump said. “A friend of mine knows him well. He said ‘Behind your back, he’s not so good.’”

The closest Edwards has come to publicly speaking negatively toward or about Trump came during his victory speech Saturday night, when he deployed a well-known, uniquely Southern put-down: “As for the president, God bless his heart,” Edwards said.

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.