Can Trump’s visit to Baton Rouge propel Bodi White to a mayoral win?

Republican Sen. Bodi White took the stage ahead of President-elect Donald Trump in Baton Rouge today in a last-minute attempt to rally his base and overcome what experts see as hurdles to a win in Saturday’s runoff election for Baton Rouge mayor.

His opponent, Democrat Sharon Weston Broome, will have supporters canvassing and waving signs ahead of a rally of her own tonight at Shiloh Education Center, says Sevetri Wilson, communications strategist for the Broome campaign. Staffers will heavily target neighborhoods where Darryl Gissel, an independent candidate in the primary election for mayor, garnered support before endorsing Broome.

The runoff election will end Saturday when voters decide who will succeed Mayor Kip Holden, who is term limited after nearly 12 years in office. White and Broome faced off in a final televised debate on Thursday evening, making appeals to voters on issues such as crime, education and traffic.

John Couvillon, pollster and owner of the political consulting firm JMC Analytics, says Broome has an opportunity to win over moderate white voters who will not be swayed by Trump’s visit to Baton Rouge. After all, he notes, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the parish with 52% of the vote for president in the Nov. 8 election. Broome’s endorsement from Gissel will likely shore up some support from moderate Republicans, Couvillion adds.

Black voters cast a larger share of early votes for the runoff than they did for the primary, a strong sign for Broome’s campaign. As for Trump’s visit, Couvillon expects it to help U.S. Sen. candidate John Kennedy, but many of the attendees for today’s rally may come from outside of the parish given Trump’s relative lack of support in East Baton Rouge Parish.

“The bar is pretty high for Sen. White to clear,” Couvillon says.

White spoke for around three minutes at today’s rally, which the Louisiana Republican Party organized and held at the Dow Chemical hangar at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. The event also was part of Trump’s so-called thank you tour, which has taken him to states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan—all of which helped secure his presidential victory.

“Mr. Trump, like myself, is a strong supporter of law enforcement and our police officers around the country,” White said at the rally, applauding the president-elect for traveling to Baton Rouge following the historic flood in August.

Several other GOP operatives and elected officials also spoke to the crowd, which was expected to be around 5,000 before the event. Attorney General Jeff Landry, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, U.S. Congressman Garret Graves and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant urged voters to vote Saturday for White and Kennedy.

Wilson says Trump’s visit may actually end up helping Broome in the runoff.

“If anything it will excite our base and they’ll definitely want to go out and vote,” she says. White’s team will also be focusing on canvassing and phone banking in the final hours before voting begins tomorrow at 7 a.m., says Lunden Chenevert, communications director for the White campaign. The campaign team, which has received an influx of volunteers for phone banking, will be trying to get voters to the polls until the election ends at 8 p.m. tomorrow, she says.

White also will ride in a Christmas parade in Zachary and travel around the parish to shake hands on Election Day, while Broome will walk neighborhoods and make several public appearances.

“They either got it or they don’t,” says political consultant Roy Fletcher. “It’s a close race. I got a feeling that it’s tilted toward (Broome), but that could change tomorrow.”

—Sam Karlin

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