Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term Saturday as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing President Trump another gubernatorial loss. In the heart of Trump country, the AP reports that the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with a focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into 2020. Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards. The president’s intense attention motivated not only conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Edwards.
Democrats who argue that nominating a moderate is the best way to beat Trump are certain to point to Louisiana. Edwards opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans, and dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction. Still, while Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Trump's coattails, its relevance to his reelection chances are less clear. In the final days as polls showed Edwards with momentum, national Republicans beefed up assistance for Rispone. That wasn’t enough to boost the GOP contender, who hitched his entire candidacy to Trump. But the 53-year-old Edwards, a former state lawmaker and Army Ranger, reminded voters that his views sometimes don’t match his party’s leaders. “They talk about I’m some sort of a radical liberal. The people of Louisiana know better than that. I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s the way we’ve been governing.”
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