Gov. Bryant makes good pick to replace Sen. Cochran; GOP should rally to support Cindy Hyde-Smith

National Review, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. calls Alabama’s Roy Moore a “deeply flawed” candidate; Chris McDaniel would be a deeper “deeply flawed” candidate

The seemingly endless name game about who will replace Sen. Thad Cochran until this November’s special election finally ended when Gov. Phil Bryant announced last week he will appoint Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (CHS) when Cochran steps down in April. I think Hyde-Smith is a good appointment. She is a good person, will be a tough campaigner, and has served Mississippi well as a state senator and Ag Commissioner. Also give Gov. Bryant credit for not taking any guff from state Sen. Chris McDaniel and his supporters who were demanding Bryant appoint McDaniel instead of Hyde-Smith or any of the other Republicans who were mentioned as prospects. REPUBLICAN PURITY – For years the Mississippi Republican Party has encouraged and welcomed legislators and other local officials if they switch political parties. However, some Republicans are grumbling because CHS was first elected as a Democrat to the state senate in 2000 and did not switch until the last two years for her term before she ran for commissioner of agriculture in 2011. Some of those same leaders in the state GOP didn’t bat an eye when incumbent lieutenant governor Amy Tuck, a lifelong Democrat, switched to the GOP in 2002. Prior to serving as lieutenant governor, like CHS, Tuck also was a Democrat state senator. After wining her race for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 1999, three years later she became a Republican. In 2003 she ran for re-election under the GOP banner. POLLING – Some Republicans hit the panic button when national polling showed only Gov. Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves or Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann could defeat McDaniel in a special election. Bryant stuck to his plans not to run despite pleas from President Trump and other national Republicans. Reeves also said no. Despite briefly reconsidering, Reeves eventually came back to his original position of not to run. Despite his popularity, in the party Hosemann will turn 71 in June. Because seniority has always meant so much for a small state like Mississippi, that was an obvious strike against Hosemann. The same polling showed McDaniel beating CHS, but at this time polling does not mean much for an election that won’t take place until next November. It is a very small snapshot of the current political landscape which is eight months from the election.

Andy Taggart can’t win, but he could sure help McDaniel and Espy

Then we also had noise coming from Andy Taggart, former chief of staff to the late Gov.

Kirk Fordice. Initially Taggart was critical of Bryant’s intent to nominate CHS. While Taggart is certainly entitled to his opinion, for the good of the party he should have kept his mouth shut. At this writing Taggart is hinting that he might become a candidate. The very clear bottom line is Taggart cannot win election to the U.S. Senate. He can surely contribute to a victory by Chris McDaniel or Democrat Mike Espy. Taggart has been leading the charge in the state Republican Party to change the state flag. You might agree with him on that issue, but beware, that is a highly risky position for any Republican to take. Taggart has also been openly critical of President Trump, an even greater risk for anyone running under the Republican banner. Some have even suggested Taggart’s actions are the result of Bryant not giving him serious consideration for the appointment to replace Sen. Cochran. In an article by Clarion-Ledger political editor Geoff Pender, perhaps the best political writer in the state, Pender called Taggart a “patriarch” of the Mississippi Republican Party. The definition of a patriarch is the leader of a family or tribe. I would instead label Taggart as a former Republican leader whose time has passed. I repeat with emphasis: Taggart can’t win the special election for the final two years of Sen. Cochran’s current term. He can only ensure a victory by Chris McDaniel or Democrat Mike Espy. Even though Republicans in Mississippi would be upset if Democrat Espy won as Democrat Doug Jones did in Alabama when Roy Moore was the GOP nominee, at least Espy would not be the embarrassment to Mississippi that McDaniel would be.

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