There are two prevalent schools of thought on our current president, Donald J. Trump. Some view him as a boastful, racist, deceitful man colluding with foreign governments in an attempt to destroy his political enemies. They demand he be impeached.
Others see him as a man whose tax-cutting and regulation-gutting policies have set the economy on fire. Unfortunately, for Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, most Louisianans subscribe to the latter view.
It was a big deal when Trump sent out a tweet this week targeting Edwards and supporting his two main Republican challengers, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone.
"REPUBLICANS of Louisiana, it is really important for you to go out and vote on October 12th for either Eddie Rispone or Ralph Abraham (both Great), which will lead to a runoff against a Nancy Pelosi/Chuck Schumer Democrat (John Bel Edwards), who does nothing but stymie all of the things we are doing to Make America Great Again. Don’t be fooled, John Bel Edwards will NEVER be for us. Early voting has already started!"
Why did Trump do it? It’s not unusual for a president to oppose a candidate in the other party, but the timing of Trump’s tweet seems more than coincidental. Trump’s known as a counter-puncher and typically only targets those who swing at him first. Edwards has traditionally gone out of his way to play nice with Trump, even boasting the president once told him he was his favorite Democrat. But when the Bayou Steel Group announced recently it was closing its mill in Laplace and laying off close to 400 workers, Edwards blamed it on Trump and his trade war with China.
“While Bayou Steel has not given any specific reason for the closure, we know that this company, which uses recycled scrap metal that is largely imported, is particularly vulnerable to tariffs,” said Edwards.
Trump most likely caught wind of the criticism, and that may have motivated him to attack Edwards. The governor’s newfound adversary makes for a two-edged sword for the incumbent. His left-wing base may be more inclined to get out and vote for him or donate to his campaign with Trump as a foe. You may not have noticed, but the left doesn’t care much for Trump. Edwards wasted no time in using the opportunity to appeal to his base and fund-raise off his newly found antagonist.
“Friends, this is urgent: Donald Trump just attacked me on Twitter. With less than two weeks left in the race, this attack could mean the difference between winning and losing. We can’t let it go unanswered, but we need the resources to fight back. My campaign just set an emergency goal to raise $25,000. It’s an ambitious goal, but with President Trump coming after me, it’s absolutely critical that we hit it. Will you donate $5 right now to help us do that?” read an Edwards’ fundraising letter.
The other side of the two-edged sword for Edwards is that taking on the president will most assuredly cost him votes with conservatives who may have been considering supporting the incumbent after he signed the fetal heartbeat law banning most abortions in the state if upheld in the courts.
Regardless of how much the media attempts to paint Edwards as a moderate, he does still have that big D in front of his name. That’s a real problem considering conservatives are angrier than ever with Democrats with all this talk of impeachment. NPR reported 50,000 new donors gave to the Trump campaign shortly after House Democrats announced an impeachment inquiry. Trump’s campaign took in $125 million recently and already had raised $300 million for the year. NPR reports that’s double of what former President Barack Obama had raised at this point in 2011 on his way to a successful reelection bid.
A recent Monmouth University poll found 84% of Republicans approve of the job Trump’s doing. Not good news for Edwards, whose state voted for Trump in greater numbers than any candidate in Louisiana history.
“There’s no doubt that the impeachment farce is energizing support for Ralph Abraham," said David Weinman, communications director for Abraham.
The Trump factor could most damage Edwards if the governor is forced into a runoff. If Trump comes to Louisiana and holds one of his huge rallies supporting the Republican candidate, it very well could mean the difference between an Edwards loss or victory.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.