President Donald Trump’s promise of new I-10 bridge sort of stole the show when he visited Lake Charles last week. But several other stories, smaller in scope but just as politically interesting, have also bubbled up in the wake of Trump’s most recent swing through Louisiana.
While these encounters and anecdotes show what kind of impact a president can make in a state over the course of a few hours, they’re also reminders that Trump could play a critical role in Louisiana’s upcoming elections.
If there was a Cinderella story that surfaced during POTUS’ run through the Bayou State last week, the honor would likely go to Kirk Williamson, a Republican who is running in House District 94 in the New Orleans region.
When the president worked the tarmac at Armstrong International Airport, he briefly met Williamson and suggested that he run for office. After telling Trump he was indeed angling for the state House, Trump quickly and unexpectedly blurted out the following: “Good, you seem like a man who cares about his people and is a reliable Republican. I endorse you!” Williamson and his team have been working reporters over with the story ever since. “This might be a first in the state of Louisiana’s history where a sitting president endorses a person running for state representative,” Williamson told LaPolitics.com.
As for politicos who actually hold seats in the Legislature, a few of them scored tickets to see Trump’s Lake Charles speech as well. That prize, however, meant that some of these lawmakers had to skip committee meetings last week, which was probably the reason they got the tickets in the first place.
So if you’re wondering how some bills escaped the committee process last Tuesday, look no further than Trump’s stump speech and political appeal. (Not to mention a group of crafty government relations pros with access to tickets for presidential events).
Then there are the members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, who joined Trump aboard Air Force One. Specifically, the representative from Jefferson Parish got an earful, based on reporting from Axios.com. “President Trump tried to persuade Rep. Steve Scalise to run for governor of Louisiana, according to two sources familiar with the president’s private conversation,” reporter Jonathan Swan wrote adding, “The president’s personal appeal to the second highest ranking Republican in the House shows how determined Republicans are to knock off Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.”
While Edwards has long enjoyed a close working relationship with the president and Scalise has already declared his intentions to not run for governor, the White House clearly has an interest in the race, as does the rest of the national Republican infrastructure.
Swan’s story suggested Trump is personally interested. The president shared his own Louisiana polling with Scalise and promised the congressman that he’d campaign on his behalf. Of course, that won’t happen, because Scalise isn’t expected to be a candidate. But what about other Republican candidates? Will Trump be just as eager to help them as well? There are, after all, two GOP contenders in Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and Congressman Ralph Abraham of Alto.
Abraham, for his part, enjoyed enviable camera time with the president last week. There’s no doubt that an open line to the White House would benefit Abraham, but what is his campaign thinking about the opportunity? Here’s an excerpt from an internal campaign memo obtained by LaPolitics:
It cannot be understated how much the President’s visit to Louisiana this week — and Doc’s appearance with him — will strengthen our position with the undecided voters. Based on the previous presidential election and virtually every poll since, the President making a choice in this race may very well be the final straw that pushes Doc to victory. We should continue our outward support and make every possible effort to seek that his vocal support and endorsement.
WHY IT MATTERS FOR DJT
If JBE is able to hold Louisiana in the fall, the national media without question will aggressively push story after story about how Democrats won in the “Deep Red South” and how this bodes poorly for the President’s chances for re-election. This is reinforced by an uncountable amount of national media stories and narratives over the past three years every single time a red seat flips to blue — with the VAST MAJORITY of those seats being significantly smaller than this race — even legislative R to D seat flips have made major national news cycles. Defeating an incumbent Democrat governor seated in a red state, though, with the support of the President, would be a tremendous lift for his campaign headed into the contested Democratic primaries two months later. There is no other race in the country that can do that.
So why is Trump so bullish on Louisiana’s 2019 election cycle? Following the analysis compiled internally by the Abraham campaign, it could help with his re-election next year. That should be obvious to even the most causal of political observers, and yet another signal that we have seen the last of Trump in the Bayou State.