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BONNIE GREER: Donald Trump’s mini-me is failing his mentor in Louisiana

Louisiana Republican candidate for governor, Eddie Rispone (C-R) speaks alongside U.S. President Donald Trump during a "Keep America Great" rally. Photograph by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images. - Credit: Getty Images

Trump’s reelection prospects are looking far from rosy judging by the travails of his allies, says BONNIE GREER

Whenever we classic cinema buffs think of grapefruit we think of that iconic moment in The Public Enemy, the film that made the young James Cagney a star.

In the scene, his petty gangster Tom Powers, pushes a grapefruit into the face of his girlfriend, played by Mae Clarke. Let’s call this: ‘Grapefruit Moment One’.

It is brutal and crass and really could not be done today without some sort of caveat. But it is still powerful because it is definitive. This is it. This is how the bad guy really feels about his girlfriend. And there is no going back.

Perhaps the second greatest grapefruit scene – ‘Grapefruit Moment Two’ – occurs in the 2017 film Girls Trip. This is a raucous, woman-bonding flick in which, in one scene, with the help of a grapefruit, one of the women demonstrates how to fellate a man. It’s hilarious and gross at the same time.

The women, known as the ‘Flossy Posse’, are on their way to New Orleans, ‘The Big Easy’, for a convention. But Louisiana politics are anything but funny.

The Bayou State is ruby red: that is, solid Republican.

Its House delegation consists of five Republicans and one Democrat. Its two senators are Republicans. Donald Trump won all eight electoral college votes in the 2016 presidential election by beating Hillary Clinton: 1,178,638 to 780,134.

The reality TV star, real estate mogul, failed casino owner, and a guy who never stood for any office anywhere won 58% of the vote against a former Democratic Party senator and Secretary of State’s 38%. Bill Clinton won Louisiana twice. Trump was a revolution.

Yet there is another Louisiana reality: The governor is a Democrat. In a bid to secure a second term in office, John Bel Edwards is facing a run-off this weekend against his Republican opponent, Eddie Rispone, after no candidate received an absolute majority during the primary election last month. (Edwards got 47%, Rispone 27%.)

What is making Republicans jittery, with less than a year now before Americans go to the polls in the presidential elections, is this: Can they continue to tie their fortunes to the mast of a president with the consistently lowest approval rating since Gallup began tracking this in the late 1940s. And who will be impeached.

Kentucky provides a cautionary tale. Earlier this month, Trump turned up at a huge rally in Lexington to support Republican governor, Matt Bevin, in his re-election campaign. The president warned that a high-profile GOP loss in a state he won by 30 points in 2016 “sends a really bad message” and pleaded with Kentuckians: “you can’t let that happen to me.”

The result: That bad message was sent, with the Democratic nominee, Andy Beshear, receiving about 5,000 more votes than Bevin, a margin of less than 0.5%. Bevin has yet to concede, calling for a recanvass, which will take place later 
this week.

The fact that Trump also stumped for Rispone in Louisiana and that he also did not win outright, but is facing a run-off, does not bode well for the president.

Trump’s 20-point lead over Clinton in the state in 2016 suggests the contest should have been a slam-dunk. Plus, Rispone hawked himself as a Trump-Mini-Me: Just an ordinary kinda guy for a Baton Rouge construction magnate, no political experience, etc. He mainlined the Trump Playbook even further by having absolutely no name recognition at all.

The Republicans took charge eventually and ramped up his name recognition a few months ago.

But nobody believes in Donald Trump more than he himself does, so even though hardly anyone had actually ever heard of the Republican candidate, Trump believed that he could change all of that.

So Rispone must be lighting a few candles before his local Madonna hoping this turns out to be so, because his first two adverts did not feature him at all. Only Trump at rallies. That was it.

He will have to do a lot more than that to take out Edwards, the sitting governor. A Dem who would die on the vine in Massachusetts or California, his pro-life, pro-gun advocacy fits the Bayou State to a T.

Yet, the Trump Train is in full force after Kentucky’s nail-biter, in which the suburbs flowed in on a blue wave that more than likely defeated the Republican governor. The GOP do not want to hear “Surf’s Up!” from the Dems in another Red state.

Trump is using his usual tactics in the Louisiana race, calling Edwards a “radical Democrat”, which is amusing given his political stance. Edwards is a conservative Dem, about as conservative as you can find in a party heading further left-wards every day.

Yet Rispone, even with $10 million of his own money, came out 20 points behind Edwards in the non-partisan primary. This is the term for the Louisiana contest, in which all candidates for the same elected office, regardless of what party they belong to, are pitted against one another. There is no segregation by party. Nothing. The other name for this non-partisan, blanket contest is jungle primary.

In the jungle primary, multiple winners are selected become the contestants in a run-off. There is no separate party nomination process before the first round and parties are not allowed to whittle down the field using internal processes, like primaries or conventions. So candidates from the same party can be running against each other in the same election. The jungle.

By the way, this process usually creates a more moderate winner because the candidate has to appeal to everybody. Rispone is a 100% Trumpian. Republicans have to be worried.

If Edwards wins the run-off on November 16 and the election gives Louisiana a Democratic governor, the GOP may begin to think the unthinkable: That the Teflon Don might be a liability. They might decide that convicting him in the senate after impeachment might be the way out.

After all, the GOP back in the day warned Nixon that he had become a real liability to Republican hegemony. He had to go. Or be impeached with no guarantee of how the senate trial might go.

Nixon made a teary farewell speech and let the presidential helicopter lift him off the White House lawn and into oblivion. The Republicans did not get where they are by being sentimental.

So if Louisiana retains its Democratic governor, even in the face of a Trumpian appeal, Something bad is happening to the GOP.

And Grapefruit Moment One could be the experience that Trump faces from his party, rather than the one he usually gets: Grapefruit Moment Two.

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