SHREVEPORT – Gov. John Bel Edwards sought to win over undecided voters in Shreveport-Bossier City Thursday in advance of President Donald Trump’s nighttime rally by telling reporters at noon that the president is coming once again to Louisiana only because businessman Eddie Rispone has no plan to help them.
“Obviously, he’s trying to nationalize this race because that’s the only shot he has,” Edwards said of his Republican opponent. “He cannot win this race based on Louisiana issues because he hasn’t demonstrated any knowledge of how state government works. He doesn’t have any vision for the state of Louisiana and to the extent that he spoken with any specificity, they sound an awful lot like the warmed-over failed policies of Bobby Jindal.”
Edwards spoke to reporters at the AFL-CIO’s office in Shreveport about seven hours before Trump rallies conservative voters for the third time in a month to defeat Edwards, a Democrat. The rally will take place at the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City.
A dozen people manning a phone bank at folding tables stopped making their calls to listen to the governor in Shreveport.
Every vote might matter because the race appears to be neck-and-neck in advance of Saturday’s election.
But one national handicapper, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which is based at the University of Virginia, wrote Thursday that it now believes that Edwards is “a small favorite.” Its report noted that African-Americans appear to be more enthusiastically supporting Edwards than during the primary when he won 46.6% of the vote and that several well-known Republicans – including Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel and former U.S. Senate candidate – are supporting the governor.
The Republican National Committee is spending $2 million during the runoff and has deployed 60 staffers to Louisiana to help Rispone.
Edwards was fired up on Thursday, as he has been at other campaign appearances in recent days, because he expects to win a narrow victory on Saturday.
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He called Rispone “phony” several times and said that the Baton Rouge businessman has lied about his record.
As proof, Edwards pointed to blow ups alongside him of three tweets from the White House that went out last Wednesday just in advance of Trump’s rally in Monroe.
“Over 21,000 jobs added since President Trump took office,” read one tweet. “Unemployment rate down from 6% to 4.3%. Wages up for blue collar workers. Louisiana energy industry is booming.”
They both can take credit because the tenures of Trump and Edwards have overlapped for nearly three years. Edwards took office in January 2016, while Trump became president one year later.
Said Edwards of Trump: “What he proved is that Eddie Rispone has been lying all along.”
Rispone says at every opportunity that Louisiana’s economy is sluggish, that the state has lost jobs since Edwards took office and that the governor’s political alliance with trial lawyers has throttled investment, especially by oil and gas companies.
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Rispone also says that Edwards raised taxes, although he doesn’t note that they were approved by the Republican Legislature.
The president’s lines of attack against Edwards are well known now given the previous rallies in Lake Charles and Monroe.
Edwards tried to knock them down beforehand.
He spoke fervently of his support for the 2nd Amendment, noting that he first received a shotgun as a Christmas present when he was nine.
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Helping his case was Richard Lipsey, founder of Lipsey’s, the Baton Rouge sporting goods store, who published a full-page ad Thursday in the Shreveport Times headlined, “I sold John Bel Edwards his first shotgun.”
Edwards also noted that car insurance rates have declined over the past year in Louisiana, anticipating that the president will say once again that the state has the highest rates in the country.
Edwards also sought to bat down the expected attack that he is a “liberal.”
“The people of Louisiana know better than that,” he said. “I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum.”
Washington correspondent Elizabeth Crisp contributed to this article.
As he trailed fellow Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham in the polls a few weeks before the primary election for governor last month, Eddie …