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Trump stumps in Louisiana to oust Dem Gov. Edwards

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By Shannon Pettypiece and Monica Alba and Alex Seitz-Wald  with NBC News Politics
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Lake Charles Civic Center, in Lake Charles, La. on Oct. 11, 2019.   -   Copyright  Evan Vucci AP

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump traveled to Louisiana on Friday night in a last-minute push to rally his base and prevent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards from winning re-election.

"While every other state is making massive job gain and you don't even notice, Edwards terrible policies are killing jobs across your state," Trump said on the eve of the state's gubernatorial primary election on Saturday.

Trump didn't endorse either of the two Republicans challenging Edwards and the president urged his supporters to vote for either Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone, who both joined the president on stage. Trump's visit to a deep red part of the state is all about turning out his base.

Both Republican candidates have tied themselves to Trump and accused the other disloyalty to the president despite a dip in the president's approval there.

If Edwards clears 50 percent of the vote in the so-called "jungle primary," he'll win a second-term. If he falls short, Edwards will face the top-finishing Republican in a Nov, 16 runoff election, and polls show the race too close to call.

Edwards, a moderate who faced backlash from his own party for signing into law a strict anti-abortion bill this summer, is counting on support from people who don't typically vote Democratic, leaning heavily on his Catholic faith and record as an Army Ranger.

The Trump campaign was caught off-guard by the president's decision to hold a rally in Lake Charles the day before the election, with the president pre-empting the official announcement with a tweet. It was the president's idea last weekend and though the re-election team usually prefers more time to build a crowd, aides scrambled to pull it off.

A senior Trump campaign official cast the decision to go, in part, as a president who is hungry for wins anywhere he can get them and if the Republicans can force a runoff, that's a victory in their book.

In a recent special election in North Carolina, the Trump campaign took credit for helping Republican Dan Bishop inch out a victory after holding a rally the night before the election. In the county where Trump held the event, which Democrat Dan McCready won in 2018 by four points, Bishop won by less than a percent, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted.

"He rallies Republicans, he speaks to his base," Lenar Whitney, a former state Representative and current member of the Republican National Committee, said of Trump's visit. "That's going to be the battle cry for this election, and in future elections in 2020."