BOSSIER CITY, La. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump made his final appeal to Louisiana voters on Thursday to wrest power from the Deep South’s only Democratic governor in an election later this week, seeking to showcase the power of his support in local races.
Trump headlined a rally in Bossier City, marking his third visit to the state to support Republican challenger Eddie Rispone against Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.
The pitch came after Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin was narrowly defeated by Democrat Andy Beshear earlier this month despite an election-eve rally for Bevin headlined by Trump. Bevin conceded defeat on Thursday after a recanvass of votes showed no change in results.
While Republicans easily held onto Mississippi’s statehouse with Trump’s support earlier this month, a loss in the Louisiana race could call into question Republican candidates’ decisions to run on close ties to the president.
Trump told a stadium filled with supporters on Thursday that they needed to vote on Saturday, because the “eyes of history” were looking down on them.
“If you want to defend your values, your jobs and your freedom, then you need to replace radical liberal John Bel Edwards with a true Louisiana patriot, Eddie Rispone,” Trump said.
Addressing Bevin’s loss in Kentucky, Trump pleaded with the crowd: “You have to give me a big win, please, OK?”
The visit came a day after the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives held its first public hearings as part of an impeachment inquiry into allegations Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.
Trump took advantage of the rally to push back against the allegations, arguing he would have no reason to seek political dirt on the former vice president ahead of the 2020 election.
“Like we need help to beat ‘Sleepy Joe Biden? I don’t think so,” he told the cheering crowd.
Recent opinion polls predict a tight race in Louisiana, with a slight lead for Edwards, an observant Roman Catholic who opposes abortion, over Rispone, a construction entrepreneur whom Trump described as “pro-family, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and 100 percent pro-America.”
Edwards comfortably bested Rispone in a six-candidate primary last month, but failed to secure the 50 percent needed to win a second term outright.
Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Peter Cooney