Even before he toured the Louisiana flood devastation in August, President-elect Donald J. Trump was extremely popular in The Pelican State. Now, the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate is set to benefit from that popularity and the ongoing trend in shifting party preference by netting another seat.
With Mr. Trump’s landslide elector college win over Democrat Hillary Clinton on November 8, Republicans retook full control of Washington, D.C. On Saturday, Republicans will look to net another seat and expand their party’s majority in the U.S. Senate to 52-48 next year.
Following the Jungle Primary on Election Day, the two finalists are competing in a runoff for the open seat left vacant by retiring Republican Sen. David Vitter. The state rules mandate a candidate must get more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff in which all parties and all candidates can participate.
The race will be between Republican candidate John Kennedy, the state treasurer, and Democrat Foster Campbell, a state Public Service commissioner. But Republicans have largely succeeded in their effort to paint the contest as the final battle between the Trump campaign and Clinton campaign.
State Republicans announced Wednesday that Trump, now the president-elect, will visit Baton Rouge on Friday to lead a get-out-the-vote rally for Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy leads Campbell by a 14-point margin in the runoff race, according to the most recent polling by Southern Media Opinion and Research. The race is rated LIKELY REPUBLICAN on the PPD 2016 Senate Election Projection Model.
This past weekend, Vice President-elect Mike Pence was in Louisiana campaigning for Mr. Kennedy.
“I just hung up the phone from President-elect Trump,” Vice President-elect Pence told the crowd. “He said to … say how grateful he was for the support from Louisiana. He said that he has one more thing to ask, to send John Kennedy to the United States Senate.”
He went on to invoke the emotional visit last summer, during which crowds showed love for the New York businessman. “We knew you would be here for us!” one woman yelled. Another referenced President Barack Obama’s absence by shouting how they knew Mr. Trump wouldn’t put his golf game above their needs.
“I just hung up the phone from President-elect Trump,” Pence told the crowd. “He said to … say how grateful he was for the support from Louisiana. He said that he has one more thing to ask, to send John Kennedy to the United States Senate.”
Despite having a Democratic governor, due largely to Mr. Vitter’s scandal-plagued campaign, Louisiana is now a deep red state and has voted for the GOP presidential nominee in eight of the past 10 contests, including in 2016 when Mr. Trump clobbered Clinton by 20 points. But Trump aside, if that’s possible, Louisiana’s $300 million budget deficit is the biggest issue in the campaign.
As the state treasurer, Kennedy’s message hammers away at the fact that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is spending way too much money after his predcessor, Republican Bobby Jindal, left the state in more than decent shape. A review by CATO economist Dan Mitchell for People’s Pundit Daily, using data from the National Association of State Budget Officers, showed Bobby Jindal was easily the top budget cutter out of those running in the presidential primary.
Further, Mr. Campbell has perhaps positioned himself a bit too far from the Trump agenda, which again, is deeply popular in the state.
“If he wants to build roads and bridges, I’m all about that,” Campbell said on the “Keepin’ It 1600” podcast. “But if he wants to privatize Social Security and he wants to give a voucher for Medicare, I cannot support that. I’ll fight that tooth and toenail.”