The only Democratic governor in the Deep South won reelection Saturday and it marked a huge defeat for President Donald Trump, who campaigned hard for the Republican challenger. Gov. John Bel Edwards managed to get around 51 percent of the vote in the heavily Republican state, beating out businessman Eddie Rispone. Turns out that Trump’s heavy involvement in the state contest didn’t just motivate conservative Republicans to go to the polls, it also pushed anti-Trump and black voters to come out in favor of Edwards.
It marked a particularly embarrassing defeat for Trump because it appears to be part of a pattern. Earlier this month, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin lost reelection after strong campaigning by the president in which he also tried to turn the gubernatorial race into a referendum on his presidency. All in all, the president went all-in campaigning in three Southern gubernatorial races this fall. He only got the results he wanted in Mississippi, where Tate Reeves won. Republicans also lost control of both chambers of the state legislature in Virginia.
These losses “raise questions about Trump’s standing as he heads into what will be a grueling 2020 campaign,” explains Politico. “By throwing himself into the three contests — each in states that Trump won by double-digits in 2016 — the president had hoped to gain a modicum of political momentum at a perilous moment of his presidency.” After the Kentucky loss, Trump raised the stakes even more on Louisiana. “So, Trump took a loss,” the president said earlier this week. “So you got to give me a big win, please. OK? OK?” But if there’s a clear message from the Louisiana vote is that there’s only so much a president can do to lift a candidate, even in a state where he won by 20 points. It was always going to be a tough fight for Trump anyway considering Edwards is a popular governor. “Races across the country may showcase national trends, but candidates still matter,” notes CNN.
Edwards, who was on the receiving end of much criticism from Trump during the campaign, mentioned the president in his victory speech. “Our shared love for Louisiana is always more important than the partisan differences that sometimes divide us,” Edwards said. “And as for the president: God bless his heart.”
The Edwards victory is particularly sweet for Democrats as it assures they will be able to have a say in the redistricting that will come after the 2020 census because governors can veto redistricting plans. “In other words, expect fairer maps for Louisiana next decade. Which means more Democrats in the state legislature and congressional delegation,” wrote Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern on Twitter.