Trump, Again, Links His National Clout to Outcome in State-Level Race

BOSSIER CITY, La. — President Trump urged Louisiana voters on Thursday to “send a message to the corrupt Democrats in Washington” by electing to governor the Republican nominee, Eddie Rispone, directly linking the impeachment inquiry to a state election that will test his clout in the Deep South.

Addressing supporters at his second rally in two weeks in heavily Republican north Louisiana, and his first since Democrats began public impeachment hearings, Mr. Trump dutifully read from his prepared text in an effort to rouse conservatives ahead of Saturday’s election.

“You will deliver a powerful rebuke to the socialists trying to demolish our democracy,” he told an arena full of enthusiasts here along the Red River.

But he also let slip his more personal interest in the Louisiana election, where Gov. John Bel Edwards is seeking re-election, by recalling the negative headlines he received earlier this month in another race. Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, a Republican, lost his re-election a day after Mr. Trump rallied supporters in the state.

“You got to give me a big win, please, O.K.,” the president pleaded with his supporters.

Mr. Trump was hoping to break open a deadlocked race between Mr. Rispone and Mr. Edwards, a moderate Democrat who has carefully avoided criticizing the president in a state where he remains fairly popular.

With House Democrats accelerating their investigation into Mr. Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, the White House is eager to show that his core supporters remain loyal and that he can deliver a victory in a state he carried by 20 points.

Calling Democrats “crazed lunatics,” he repeatedly insisted he did nothing wrong in his efforts to urge the Ukranians to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. And, by way of professing his innocence, he noted that he dethroned the Bush, Clinton and Obama “dynasties” in 2016 and hardly required foreign interference to win re-election.

“We need help to beat Sleepy Joe Biden? I don’t think so.”

Mr. Trump also claimed with no evidence that congressional Republicans find the impeachment proceedings politically beneficial and have urged him to “keep this sucker going for a while.”

But the president made clear he wasn’t much enjoying his status as the fourth American president to face impeachment and in a rare moment of reflection he allowed that the process was “very hard on my family.”

“What a life I lead,” he said. “You think this is fun, don’t you.”

Mr. Trump’s introspection was fleeting, however, and he soon returned to his familiar repertoire of hits, belittling his Democratic antagonists on Capitol Hill and at one point venturing that Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, didn’t have what it takes to suit up for Louisiana State University’s top-ranked football team.

As for Mr. Biden, the president said he’d gladly face off with him in the general election but warned the crowd that they would witness “the lowest ratings in the history of debates” because the Democratic front-runner “is a very sleepy person.”

The president delivered the soundbyte-ready lines he came armed with against Mr. Edwards, calling the pro-gun rights and anti-abortion rights Democrat a tool of Washington liberals.

“A vote for John Bel Edwards is a vote for radical leftists,” Mr. Trump said.

At another point, he offered an even more demagogic line in a part of Louisiana that bears the scars of an ugly racial history.

“John Bel Edwards supports illegal aliens not American citizens,” the president said. He eventually broke character — “that was a long harangue,” he observed of his own prepared remarks — and turned to other interests, such as trumpeting the Oxford University credentials of Senator John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana to a decidedly working-class audience.

Mr. Trump brought an array of Louisiana Republicans to the stage, including Mr. Rispone, who echoed the president about how this election could “send a message.”

What nobody said explicitly is that the president under more pressure to deliver after the Kentucky race. Mr. Bevin conceded defeat Thursday as a recanvass of the state’s votes made clear that Andy Beshear, the attorney general, won.

Mr. Trump’s task here is not much easier. Mr. Edwards, is relatively popular and Mr. Rispone, a business executive and donor, is a first-time candidate who is not well known in the state.

But with two appearances in the closing weeks of the race, the president has put his political capital on the line for Mr. Rispone.

And the Republican nominee here has done his part to increase the stakes for the White House, linking himself to Mr. Trump at every turn. Mr. Rispone began the race with an ad depicting the “Trump” bumper sticker he placed on his pickup truck. He has also echoed the president’s outsider appeals and pet issue, arguing that a state government needs a businessman while assailing Mr. Edwards over immigration.

The governor, while refusing to criticize Mr. Trump, has portrayed Mr. Rispone as one who is grasping the president’s coattails and attempting to “nationalize this race.”

“He cannot win this race based on Louisiana issues because he hasn’t demonstrated any knowledge about how state government works,” Mr. Edwards told supporters in nearby Shreveport on Thursday afternoon. “He doesn’t have any vision for the state of Louisiana.”

A West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, Mr. Edwards has expanded Medicaid, raised teachers’ pay and also some taxes in an effort to balance the state’s budget.

This is the president’s third visit to the state in just over a month. He appeared last month in Lake Charles, La., as part of an effort to boost Republican turnout in Louisiana’s all-party primary. Mr. Rispone narrowly edged out Representative Ralph Abraham, a Republican, to claim a spot in the runoff against Mr. Edwards and not all the wounds have healed from the Rispone-Abraham contest.

That’s why the president has returned to the same part of the state — it is Mr. Abraham’s home base — in an effort to rally Republicans in what is the last election of 2019. Bringing Mr. Abraham to the stage, Mr. Trump acknowledged their bitter primary, calling it “nasty.” But the president offered little balm, instead reminding Mr. Abraham that Mr. Rispone had self-financed his own victory, noting that Mr. Abraham had “a little less money to spend than Eddie.”

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