LSU shot to the top of the College Football Playoff rankings after its victory over archnemesis Alabama a week ago, and remains undefeated after Saturday night’s win against Ole Miss — shortly before Edwards secured his own victory against Republican challenger Eddie Rispone.
The Saints have notched eight wins so far this season, finding ways to stay atop the NFC South even as record-setting quarterback Drew Brees was sitting out five games with a thumb injury.
The Democratic governor exchanges text messages and has developed a friendship with LSU Coach Ed Orgeron and attends some team practices. And he has flaunted his fandom on the campaign trail.
Edwards appeared in a public service announcement with Brees to promote veteran-owned businesses. Orgeron introduced Edwards at a business summit, showing video of the governor throwing passes to LSU players, and later introduced him at a campaign fundraiser. Edwards greeted Orgeron and the entire LSU team when they arrived home after defeating Alabama. The video circulated on social media.
“I think it was brilliant to go do that,” said Bob Mann, a Louisiana State University mass communication professor and former aide to many Democratic elected officials. “It just had a ring of authenticity to it.”
The football-themed promotions in the middle of a hotly contested election drew criticism from Republicans, who said Edwards sought to capitalize off the popularity of sports teams that shouldn’t be involved in politics. Rispone also publicly supported LSU and held campaign tailgating events, but he didn’t have the special access of Edwards.
Edwards supporters suggested the governor simply loves the game, with a wink and nod to the added benefit that videos showing him with Orgeron and Brees might have for his reelection bid.
Engster said the exchanges make Edwards seem like a regular Louisiana guy, a hunter and family man who loves football.
“Put it together and it might have been enough to help make a difference,” Engster said. “Every little bit helps.”