This is a story of how Mississippians define “good heart” and how they reconcile that value judgment with racist rhetoric. How they settle that might determine the balance of power in the U. S. Senate. At least it will determine the size of the Senate majority.
Incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) is running against Mike Espy (D), an African American former congressman. In the regular election “Hyde-Smith finished with 41.5% of the vote, to Espy’s 40.6%. Because neither candidate reached the 50% threshold, there will be a special election on Nov. 27”, now less than a week away.
Last week Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reported that a Republican senator’s provocative ‘jokes’ jolt key US Senate race. (Scriber notes: Benen’s post was published last week, Nov. 16, so adjust the date references accordingly.)
When putting together a list of key U.S. Senate races in 2018, few included the special election in Mississippi. It’s a state where Donald Trump won his election by 18 points, and where Republicans tend to dominate.
But in this year’s final major contest, election watchers suddenly have a reason to keep an eye on the Magnolia State.
It was earlier this week that we learned about comments from incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), who recently joked about attending “a public hanging.” Given the state’s history, and the fact that she’s running against Mike Espy (D), an African American former congressman, the Republican’s comments struck a dissonant note.
Yesterday, the story took another unsettling turn.
A video surfaced Thursday of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi saying it might be a “great idea” to make it harder for some people to vote, and her campaign quickly responded that she was “obviously” joking.
Hyde-Smith, who is in a runoff against Democrat Mike Espy on Nov. 27, made the remark at a campaign stop in Starkville, Mississippi, on Nov. 3. It was posted to Twitter on Thursday by Lamar White Jr., publisher of The Bayou Brief. Smith earlier this week posted video of Hyde-Smith making a comment on Nov. 2 about a “public hanging” that started a controversy.
“And then they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who … maybe we don’t want to vote,” Hyde-Smith is heard saying. “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”
In a Twitter message posted late yesterday, the GOP senator wrote, “It’s ok to still have a sense of humor in America isn’t it?”
Of course, while having a sense of humor is a good idea, it’s also a good idea for political leaders in a state with a troubled history on race to avoid “jokes” about public hangings and deliberately making it harder for certain people to vote.
A spokesperson for Mike Espy’s campaign called Hyde-Smith a “walking stereotype who embarrasses our state,” adding, “For a state like Mississippi, where voting rights were obtained through sweat and blood, everyone should appreciate that this is not a laughing matter.”
I’ll leave it to local experts to say whether, and to what degree, this might affect the upcoming election, but at a distance, there’s reason to believe the race may be more competitive than many first assumed.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a television ad campaign in the state this week, and if Hyde-Smith was a shoo-in, the party probably wouldn’t have bothered. The White House, meanwhile, is reportedly weighing a possible presidential pre-election visit to Mississippi.
The Republican senator launched a new ad of her own this week, and one of the first names mentioned in the commercial is financier George Soros – which is hardly evidence of a candidate confident about her chances of success.
Last week, in a multi-candidate field, Hyde-Smith finished with 41.5% of the vote, to Espy’s 40.6%. Because neither candidate reached the 50% threshold, there will be a special election on Nov. 27, which is just 11 days away.
The two candidates are also scheduled to participate in a debate on Nov. 20.
That would be today. I should have more on this tomorrow.
Judd Legum (popular.info) reported that After lynching comments, Hyde-Smith accepts $2700 contribution from notorious racist. Just today Legum provides a chronology of how Hyde-Smith goes off the rails. He reports on who donated what to Hyde-Smith’s campaign, who is trying to claw back their donation, and who is letting their donation ride. Take a guess as to what Walmart did and is doing. Take another guess as to what Trumpy is doing about Hyde-Smith. Aw heck, I’ll clue you in about what the Tweety bird in the WH is doing. Here is part of the post from Legum.
A couple of campaign events on Hyde-Smith’s schedule are two campaign rallies with Trump on November 26, the day before the election.
Donald J. Trump
.@cindyhydesmith loves Mississippi and our Great U.S.A. https://t.co/hQPC4CrhDi
Official Team Trump@TeamTrump
Join President Trump in BILOXI, MS! GET YOUR FREE TICKETS: https://t.co/A63BD4ocXD #MAGA #Trump #Mississippi #Biloxi #MS #MAGARally #TeamTrump
November 19 2018
A Super PAC aligned with Trump, America First Action, is also unleashing $300,000 in advertisements in support of Hyde-Smith. The ads will tout “the president’s endorsement of Hyde-Smith and her record of voting in lockstep with his priorities since her April appointment to replace Sen. Thad Cochran.”
The ads feature a quote from Trump at a rally earlier this year. “Cindy has voted with me 100 percent of the time. She’s always had my back… A vote for Cindy is a vote for me and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Democrats are spending more conservatively in support of Espy, apparently believing he is still a longshot. “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) hasn’t reported making any independent expenditures in the race all year, and nor has the Mississippi Democratic Party,” Sludge reports.
Espy is getting some outside assistance from the Senate Majority PAC but overall “outside groups backing Espy had reported spending $527,000 on independent expenditures since Nov. 8, far less than the nearly $2.7 million spent in support of Hyde-Smith.”
Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have appeared in Mississippi over the last few days in support of Espy.
This is a very possible pickup for a U. S. Senate, so I hope that the DSCC gets on board fast.
Remember how I claimed that the real story of the 2016 election was not so much about Trump as about the voters who supported him, who voted for him, that is, his “base”. If you have any lingering doubts, check out this one.
Daily Kos Staff writer Kelly Macias adds that Republicans love the Mississippi senator who joked about lynching because she’s got a ‘good heart’.
Republicans across the country have decided to double down on their support for Cindy Hyde-Smith, the U.S. senator from Mississippi who made a disgusting and racist remark about lynching on the campaign trail earlier this month. Hyde-Smith is running against Democrat Mike Espy, a black man, to keep the seat she was appointed to when former Senator Thad Cochran resigned. She was at a campaign event when she joked that she’d be on the “front row” of a “public hanging,” if one of her supporters (the very person who organized the event) were to invite her.
After receiving much backlash (after all, it’s a completely gross and inappropriate thing to say, especially given Mississippi’s history of lynching), Hyde-Smith refused to apologize. And her party is not only standing behind her; it’s decided to throw more money into the ongoing race, now moved into a runoff between Espy and Hyde-Smith that will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
According to The Hill, Republicans are airing TV ads beginning on Thursday, as well as looking to bring in Donald Trump in order to get Hyde-Smith over the finish line and maintain their majority in the Senate. Of course, they are also gaslighting Mississippians by insisting that she’s a “good person,” even though we know perfectly well what kind of person would say this sort of thing. At a press conference on Monday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said this:
“I could tell you all of us in public life have said things on occasion that we could’ve phrased better,” Bryant said. “But I know this woman, I know her heart and I knew it when I appointed her. I know it now. She meant no offense by that statement. There was nothing in her heart of ill-will.”
It’s impossible to count how often someone says something offensive and racist and refuses to apologize for it, hiding behind the “But I’m a good person” defense. It’s not only old, it also adds insult to injury. Hyde-Smith could have owned up to her mistake, which would be the right thing to do. But today’s Republicans love nothing more than to dig their heels in and show the world that they aren’t about to back down and that they aren’t afraid to go lower than we ever thought they could.
Meanwhile, a political action committee called PowerPACPlus has released a video in support of Espy showing Hyde-Smith’s comments in the context of how white crowds used to gather to watch black bodies get killed in “public hangings.” The (Jackson, Mississippi) Clarion Ledger notes that even Mike Espy’s campaign called the ad divisive, as it shows Hyde-Smith’s face “superimposed into an old photo of a white crowd attending the lynching of two black men.” The video has had more than 100,000 views so far. It is jarring, but it does remind us of the brutal legacy that Hyde-Smith’s comments evoked, considering that more blacks were lynched in Mississippi from 1882 to 1968 than in any other state in the nation.
Democrats are also investing some money in the race, hoping that Espy will become the first Democrat elected to the Senate in Mississippi since 1982. But it’s hard to predict what will happen in this election and which way it will go. Democrats are hoping that Hyde-Smith’s comments will mobilize turnout among black Mississippians, who make up 38 percent of the state’s population. As for the Republicans, they are also worried about turnout, given voter fatigue with this election cycle. They are less worried about Hyde-Smith’s comments being the reason why Republicans wouldn’t come out to support her. And they are likely right. To paraphrase Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, Cindy Hyde-Smith may not be a racist (though she said something extremely racist and insensitive), but the racists probably think she’s a racist. And racists vote. So they are probably thrilled with her comments and her refusal to back down. And they’d love nothing more than to support her and her party as they try to hold on to the Senate.
Let’s hope Mike Espy wins this thing. More racist Republicans in the Senate (or anywhere else) is exactly what we don’t need.