Donald Trump has attacked the Democratic governor of Louisiana’s economic record, even as an official White House tweet said the state was “booming”, that unemployment was low and jobs were returning.
Appearing in the so-called Pelican state two days after his appearance in Kentucky failed to stop a Democratic challenger winning the governor’s race, the president launched into a series of attacks on Democrat John Bel Edwards.
He claimed Mr Edwards, who assumed office in 2016, was a “radical, liberal Democrat” and that people should back Republican challenger Eddie Rispone.
“John Bel Edwards has not done a good job. You’re going to have great new Republican, a tremendously successful man Eddie Rispone,” Mr Trump added. “Louisiana is 50th out of 50 in economic growth...This is Louisiana, right? How did you get this guy?
Yet moments earlier, the official White House Twitter feed published a pair of tweets praising the economic situation in Louisiana.
“President @realDonaldTrump is wheels up for LOUISIANA!,” said one tweet. “The Pelican State is booming—boasting its lowest unemployment rate since 2008, bringing back 5,000+ manufacturing jobs, and becoming one of our Nation’s leading states in natural gas exports.”
Another, posted presumably while the president was in the air on his way to the city of Monroe, located around 180 miles to the north west of state capital Baton Rouge, said: “The Trump Economy in Louisiana: Over 21,000 jobs added since President Trump took office; unemployment rate down from 6 to 4.35; wages up for blue collar workers; Louisiana energy industry is booming.”
Mr Edwards held his own rally shortly before the president took to the stage at the Monroe Civic Centre. According to The Advocate, Mr Edwards, 53, highlighted Louisiana’s budget surplus and its investment in education and other areas. He accused Mr Rispone, 70, of trying to turn the election into a national affair by seeking the president’s help.
“We know the president’s rally is about partisan politics,” Mr Edwards said. “Rispone’s a bad candidate. So his party is forced to call in the president to try to prop him up.”
Few would describe Mr Edwards as a radical liberal. He is among a number of Democrats who have governed or served in statewide office, in districts that would otherwise be considered red. Like Andy Beshear, the Democrat who this week won the governor’s race in Kentucky, Mr Edwards is opposed to abortion, and this summer he outraged activists when he signed into law a so-called “heartbeat bill”, that would limit abortions up to around six weeks of pregnancy.
“There’s so much anger out there that it’s palpable,” Sally Donlon, president of the Louisiana Federation of Democratic Women, told reporters after the bill was signed.
Mr Trump, who won the state 58-38 in 2016, was correct when he drew attention to Louisiana’s performance in comparison to other states on a number of issues.
Yet, while economic growth there has stalled, figures from 2018 suggest its gross domestic product grew 1.1 per cent, compared to a 0.1 per cent increase in 2017. That was some way behind the national average of 2.9 per cent.
However, according to the report released in May by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Louisiana was ranked in 39th position, not 50th.
On a steamy night in which the president said he was working up a sweat, he suggested someone at the venue was “saving on air conditioning”.
He added: “That’s all right. You’ve always got to save a little money. You go home and you lose about nine pounds and you say, ‘What happened’.”
The run off race between Mr Edwards and Mr Rispone followed a primary last month in which none of the candidates managed to win a majority. Both men are hoping to tap into the support of Republican Ralph Abraham, the third-placed finisher. The primary contest between him and Mr Rispone was frequently sour.
Mr Trump has invested much time in winning the race, and the White House has confirmed he would visit Bossier City on 14 November, two days before Louisiana voters head to polls. The president also visited Lake Charles last month to encourage voters to back one of the Republicans ahead of the state’s open primary.
“The American people are fed up with Democrat lies, hoaxes, smears, slanders and scams. The Democrats’ shameful conduct has created an angry majority. And that’s what we are,” Mr Trump said on Wednesday. “We’re a majority, and we’re angry, that will vote the do-nothing Democrats out of office in 2020.”
Additional reporting by agencies
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