I’ve seen pro-Trump pundits claim they’d have voted for Louisiana’s Democratic governor too as if to downplay President Trump is in any way tied to the loss there. But in 2010 and 2014, many of these pundits would never have given Obama a pass.
The reality is more complicated though.
In truth, Louisiana voters did have a reaction to President Trump that the GOP needs to be mindful of. They did not come out in waves despite direct pleas from the President. The race was certainly close. But Louisiana is a Republican state. Trump mattered.
The problem for the Democrats is that he did not matter as much as they want to claim.
Like in Kentucky, the GOP swept the state except that race. That race was, in fairness, most closely identified with the President and some voters did react there. But this also gives a path forward for the GOP. Consider that in Louisiana, the state legislature is now the most conservative legislature it has ever had. The GOP disconnected from Trump did just fine in the state.
The Republican alternative had no real message. Like in Kentucky where Bevin was disliked, the Republicans tried to make their race about the incumbent. They provided no real message other than Trump is awesome and the Democrats are bad. It is hard to convince voters the Democrat is bad when they’ve had him for 4 years and they know him. He signed pro-life legislation and has been a competent administrator.
Even in Virginia the GOP did not have great messaging. The “socialism sucks” message does not resonate. The culture war stuff does not resonate.
Voters want a reason to vote for someone, not against someone else. President Trump needs to spend way more time giving voters reasons to vote for him, not just against the Democrats. The GOP needs to as well. The party seems out of ideas and that is in large part because the President can turn on a dime so no one wants to stake out a position on public policy.
They are going to have to do so.
Edwards won because the GOP could not paint a negative picture of him and voters on the fence who could have been persuaded were either turned off by President Trump or turned off by a GOP that didn’t want these voters to believe their own eyes.
A party at war with the truth is going to have difficulties in 2020.