Lt. Governor Tate Reeves told a story at the Neshoba County Fair of how former Democratic Speaker Billy McCoy would refer to him as “Tater.” We can be fairly certain it wasn’t a term of endearment from the old worm farmer to the youthful State Treasurer.
Admittedly, I have heard the nickname tossed around behind the scenes and I’ve also heard the moniker “Tater Tots” thrown out to describe those who support Reeves. Such references haven’t always been expressed in the most affectionate of ways to say the least, especially from those who may have been considered “Billy’s Boys,” whether in the House or with Hewes.
We also know the mainstream media loves to over-inflate any perceived tension between Governor Phil Bryant, Speaker Phillip Gunn and Reeves. To hear the Bill Minors in the press talk it is as if Tater has his Tots lurking in the Capitol halls, waiting for the right opportunity to pounce on Bryant and Gunn to seize power and rule the world. (Cue the mad scientist laugh.)
Now I’m not naïve enough to believe these three men don’t have policy preference and leadership style differences from time to time with one another but their relationship is far from a TLC movie special.
So, amidst the claims of ruling with an iron fist and being power hungry, for Reeves to use his speech under the historic pavilion at Neshoba to turn what many have meant as a slight into further endearing him to voters is politically quite smooth.
You see, essentially, Reeves said if you support innovative educational reforms such as those passed during the 2013 legislative session, decreasing state indebtedness, fiscal sanity in state budgeting, and fighting against overreaching federal mandates and programs such as Obamacare then you just might be a “Tater Tot,” too.
Sounds awfully mainstream Mississippi conservative, doesn’t it? It is also the down to earth, plain spoken kind of banter many voters can relate to with a grin and a giggle, a style that has been proven to connect with the average voter in the Magnolia State.
But for fun and expediency sake why don’t we drop the “tot” and just stick with “Tater?” After all, there’s not enough Sonic Drive-Ins in Mississippi to supply all the tater tots future Reeves’ campaign stops will need if we don’t, whether it’s running for reelection or higher office (which we all know is coming; it’s just a matter of when and what office).
For me, as I listened to Reeves’ speech I was reminded of that old Dr. Pepper commercial. You remember, don’t you? Sing it with me, “I’m a Pepper. He’s a Pepper. She’s a Pepper. We’re a Pepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?”
Now replace “Pepper” with “Tater” and you have perhaps the best twist on branding a candidate Misssissippi has seen since Engelbert, I mean Delbert, and the little lady on the park bench.
“He’s a Tater. She’s a Tater. Wouldn’t you like to be a Tater, too?” Oh, I can hear the campaign jingle now.
Capitalizing on criticism is definitely the way to play politics successfully, and Tate Reeves, well he made a few more “Taters” around Mississippi with his Founder’s Square speech.