The old saying “all is fair in love and war” should also include politics. Though we weren’t surprised that Gov. Phil Bryant didn’t pick Chris McDaniel to finish out the third year of Sen. Thad Cochran’s seventh term, we didn’t expect him to pick someone like Cindy Hyde-Smith, who has the baggage of starting her political life as a Democrat in the state senate and staying with that party until it wasn’t popular in her district or state any more.
Bryant blasted his old friend McDaniel for being an “opportunist” when he dropped out of the race against Sen. Roger Wicker to instead run for the open seat that was being vacated by Cochran.
But isn’t a shift at a time when the Republicans become the dominant party in the state the very definition of an opportunist? And aren’t all office-seekers opportunists on some level? They wouldn’t run if there weren’t an opportunity to win and/or an opportunity to improve upon the job that’s being done.
That’s politics. It doesn’t have to make sense or be true, it just has to move the needle. They shamelessly spin and lie, exploiting an uninformed public. We’ve never seen a more egregious example than the Wicker ad that accuses McDaniel of supporting Obamacare. Huh? McDaniel filed the lawsuit to end Obamacare — and was joined by Bryant! — while Wicker continued to vote to fund it. Candidates should at least have a sliver of truth in their concocted campaign rhetoric!
If you’re a Republican, you shouldn’t be happy with Bryant’s pick. Democrat Mike Espy is a solid opponent, and it will take a true principled conservative to beat him in November.
Bryant did assert his independence by picking Hyde-Smith, proving that he wasn’t letting anyone in Washington make the pick. There have been plenty of reports, including from the Washington Post and New York Times, that President Trump didn’t want her and that he won’t endorse her, but Bryant appointed her anyway.
But Bryant stayed loyal to her, even if it hurts the party, so there must be a reason. It’s interesting to look back in our archives at all the visits Bryant made here when he was running for governor, McDaniel at his side, leading the way for his overwhelming, Tea Party-fueled victories in Jones County.
McDaniel helped push the governor’s agenda, too. They were strong political allies and friends. And then came 2014. When McDaniel had the audacity to run against Cochran, trying to bring back conservative values to the Party of Reagan. That was his only sin. He didn’t wait “his turn.”
So Bryant turned on him. It’s a sad commentary. Just like his predecessor, Gov. Haley Barbour, Bryant has done a lot of good for our state, and that can’t be erased. But he sure is tarnishing his legacy at the end of his second term.