President Donald Trump badly needs Republican gubernatorial wins in three deep-red states, but they're anything but a sure bet.
The president is expected to campaign for GOP candidates for governor in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi over the coming weeks, and some of his most prominent supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, will help out, reported Politico.
“(Those) are states where Republicans can win races for governor," said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member and the nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. "Those would be big momentum wins for President Trump heading into 2020, but in the unlikely event we lose in all those states it would clearly be a troubling sign that the president would have to overcome."
Republicans have never won all three states in the same year, and each of the GOP candidates face a major challenge.
Kentucky's Matt Bevin is one the least popular governors in the country, while the GOP's Ralph Abraham is facing popular Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the GOP nominee, has been criticized as a poor campaigner and barely made it through a brutal primary.
The White House believes Trump will be blamed for any of them losing, whether he campaigns for them or not, so the president plans to jump into the races so he can claim credit if they win.
“The president — and his base — enjoys his boasting during these ‘winning’ narrative opportunities," said GOP strategist Nick Everhart. "Maybe that helps keep the national GOP base energized heading into the holidays, a likely prolonged impeachment slog, and peak Democratic presidential primary season."
“Any morsel to take credit and feed the base is important for enthusiasm and fundraising over the coming months," he added.
Republicans are growing cautiously optimistic about all three races as recent polls suggest that impeachment talk has fired up conservative voters, and Trump is expected to use those campaign rallies to defend himself from the constitutional process.
“I tend to agree that getting him out there is the correct posture for them,” said Scott Jennings, a Kentucky-based Republican strategist. “Being in a crouch, hiding under the desk — I think that would be a bad sign.”
But Democrats have also invested heavily in all three races, and polls show they still have a good shot at winning two out of three.
“These are three deep-red areas,” said David Turner, spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, “that should be easy lay-ups for Republicans.”