- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Louisiana on Monday marks the beginning of what is shaping up as a big Trump administration push behind the Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in three states.

In tight races in the Pelican State as well as in Mississippi and Kentucky, the Republican candidates are hoping a White House popular in all three could provide the winning edge.

President Trump is scheduled to appear in Lexington, Kentucky, the night before the election, and four days before that he will be in Tupelo, Mississippi. Mr. Trump made one appearance in Louisiana prior to the gubernatorial primary on Oct. 12 and could schedule a return visit before the state holds its runoff on Nov. 16.

Mr. Pence did not speak publicly in Baton Rouge, instead hosting a private fundraising reception in Baton Rouge for native businessman Eddie Rispone, a longtime Republican donor but first-time candidate who is hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards. He did stop at a local restaurant on his way to the fundraiser, according to local media.

The lone Democratic governor remaining in the Deep South, Mr. Edwards appears vulnerable heading toward the Nov. 16 election, given that Mr. Rispone and another Republican, Rep. Ralph Abraham, won more than 50% of the vote combined in the Oct. 12 primary.

In Kentucky, where incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Bevin is locked in a tight reelection battle, and in Mississippi, where Republicans hope to hold the governor’s mansion with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the White House also may be active prior to those states’ Nov. 5 elections.

All three Republican candidates are running partly behind their support for Mr. Trump, and to some extent they have tried to make the attempt by House Democrats to impeach the president a rallying cry. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Pence are discouraging such attempts during their appearances in the three states, with Mr. Trump’s speech in Lake Charles this month being perhaps the first time a U.S. president has uttered the term “BS” in its unedited form.

“With the help of President Trump and Vice President Pence in the primary, 53 percent of Louisianians turned out to vote against John Bel Edwards and his liberal policies,¨ Mr. Rispone wrote in an email to The Washington Times. ¨I am honored to have the support of President Trump and Vice President Pence, and I look forward to welcoming them both back to Louisiana so we can defeat John Bel Edwards and finally do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for the nation.”

Although campaigns welcome the kind of money that receptions with the vice president can generate, Mr. Rispone thus far has not had any funding issues in his bid to beat Mr. Edwards, instead bankrolling his maiden campaign with at least $11.5 million of his own money, according to the most recent finance reports.

Mr. Trump remains popular in Mississippi and, since his election, has stumped hard there on behalf of Republicans, beginning with the 2018 midterms and the victory of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. His rally in Tupelo on Nov. 1, four days before voting, promises to be a raucous affair, and his son Donald Trump Jr. was in Oxford last week.

Mr. Reeves, who is seeking to defeat Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood in the Magnolia State, stressed the impeachment push Monday.

“I am proud to welcome President Trump back to Mississippi — a state that is proud to stand behind our president,” Mr. Reeves told The Washington Times. “He knows how important it is to defeat Democrat Jim Hood, who supported Hillary Clinton and still works to undermine Trump like the rest of his radical party.”

Both Mr. Hood and Mr. Reeves have won multiple statewide elections before, which makes their gubernatorial contest close in a state that has not voted for a Democratic governor this century.

The polls in Louisiana and Mississippi reflect the tight nature of the contests. Internally, all four campaigns express confidence in their numbers, and more objective figures are hard to find.

The Real Clear Politics polling average, for example, does not yet exist for Louisiana, where a couple of public polls have shown Mr. Edwards and Mr. Rispone tied within the margin of error, or with Mr. Edwards holding a slim lead.

Similarly, in Mississippi, the heavy lifting a Trump administration can provide Mr. Reeves could prove decisive.

In Kentucky, where Mr. Bevins has a terrible relationship with the state media and an aggressive political style, he has managed to make his race against Attorney General Andy Beshear too close to call in the final week.

Bluegrass State polls show the two tied, according to the RCP polling average, and thus Mr. Trump’s late appearance in a state he carried by some 30 points, is expected to help Mr. Bevin at the wire.

Mr. Bevin, like his Republican counterparts hoping to win next month, has made support of the Trump administration one of its primary pitches to voters.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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