There’s been a flurry of news over the past weekend all pertinent to 2018.
The big news is that Donald Trump has in no uncertain terms chosen his horse in the Mississippi 2018 race for US Senate. Word began circulating late last week that he placed a call to Senator Roger Wicker pledging his support. This comes as Steve Bannon of Breitbart News is trying to wage a proxy war against Trump supported candidates and has mentioned State Senator Chris McDaniel. McDaniel shrugged it off via social media, but there’s no question that Trump’s overt support of Wicker is a gut punch to McDaniel’s calculus.
On Thursday a New York Times article on the race came out with an interview of McDaniel.
McDaniel also cleaned up some sloppiness and found a new treasurer for the Remember Mississippi PAC. His secretary is no longer on his paperwork, nor is her address. Instead, now it’s Tommy Barnett with a Biloxi PO Box address.
My continued belief is that McDaniel will not challenge Wicker straight up unless there’s some major negative event. McDaniel knows that if he loses another big race, he’s done with larger elective politics, so as much bravado as he emits, he’s actually being pretty cautious. Otherwise, why not sign the papers immediately and declare? So far, McDaniel gets a free look by just talking about it, but at some point soon, he’ll have to pull the trigger by the “end of October” deadline he set for himself if he’s serious. Even his own supporters are now questioning why he won’t go ahead file the papers and enter the race. If Wicker is as bad as McDaniel says he is, what’s so difficult about the decision?
Even if he does get in, I think McDaniel would lose based on a few factors. First, the anti-incumbency tide is not nearly as high as it was in 2014 for Republicans, especially with Trump in the White House. Second, I think there’s still a major hangover from 2014 in that voters and donors both remember the “lack of institutional control” his campaign exhibited. Third, I don’t think there will be nearly the amount of outside money that really boosted McDaniel in 2014 available to him. Finally, I think Wicker is an order of magnitude better of a political candidate than Cochran. It appears that a meaningful tax bill is on the horizon and that’s a pretty big deliverable. Bottom line – If McDaniel were to hop in, it would still be Wicker’s race to lose.
There were a couple of interesting articles nationally about Steve Bannon over the weekend documenting his lack of electoral success. Bannon also spoke to the California GOP over the weekend where he characterized George W. Bush by saying “There’s not been a more destructive presidency than George W. Bush’s”. The more Bannon gets personally involved in the candidacies of insurgents to Trump’s agenda, I think the more sound bites like this will start hurting them.
Geoff Pender over the weekend asked the “what if” question if Senator Thad Cochran were to resign. It’s a bit of political naval gazing at this point, but I think the one thing that’s clear is that it would knock over a lot of political dominos and functionally rearrange the political order of things in Mississippi in both 2018 and 2019. Cochran has good people around him though, and as long as he’s able to be effective, my sense is that he stays.
Earlier in the week, McDaniel’s proxy forces started a social media crusade to try to get Governor Phil Bryant to appoint McDaniel should Cochran step down for health reasons. McDaniel’s social media stunt likely didn’t endear him much to the Governor. Chris McDaniel has about as much chance at getting appointed by Governor Bryant to an open US Senate seat as “Wagon Wheel” Blair.
However, Cochran is back in Washington and yesterday his Chief of Staff Brad White spent time on the Paul Gallo show defending his boss and asserting that Cochran is in DC making critical votes.
Over the weekend, stories in the Sun Herald and the Clarion Ledger ran that testing the waters for Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes to challenge incumbent Republican Congressman Steven Palazzo. Palazzo has defended real political challenges from both his left and his right since being first elected in 2010. Like his predecessor, he’s a political survivor in what is a politically quirky district. But Hewes vs. Palazzo is a real primary race that would be difficult to handicap. That would be an empty-the-bank-accounts primary fight for sure. Right now, it’s just a rumor, but it’s not an accidental one.
All of these items will make really the next 36 months probably the most politically interesting in a generation. There’s been remarkable order to things over the last decade, but we are coming to a point where there are going to be a lot of different pieces moving around and it will make for fascinating politics . . . and political coverage on Y’all Politics.