Hyde-Smith takes comfortable lead over Espy in MS senate runoff race
Despite several controversies - some manufactured, some not - Mississippi Republican senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith has taken a 10 point lead over former Bill Clinton agriculture secretary Mike Espy in the runoff election to be held next Tuesday.
The race pits Hyde-Smith, appointed to fill the seat held by Thad Cochrane who retired last April, against black challenger Espy who, media coverage suggests, has a decent shot to shock the world and win the seat.
But reality has a way of intruding on such delusions. Hyde Smith is comfortably ahead with a week to go.
Hyde-Smith, who tied Espy on Election Day, became embroiled in a series of racially charged controversies that opened up a line of attack for her political rivals.
Among the missteps, Hyde-Smith was caught on video earlier this month joking about how she would sit in "the front row" of a public hanging.
Hyde-Smith offered an apology to “anyone that was offended” by her hanging remark during her sole public debate with Espy, who is African American, last week, but that hasn't stopped Walmart and others to request that her campaign refund all their donations.
Those "offended" by the remark chose to be offended. The only thing offensive was the reaction to the bad joke by Hyde-Smith's political opponents. That we have reached the point where a metaphor is offensive shows how silly and stupid racial politics has become.
Other controversies are more worrisome:
On Friday, the Jackson Free Press reported that Hyde-Smith had attended a private high school that was founded in 1970 so that white parents could avoid attempts to integrate public schools. Hyde-Smith's daughter later attended a similar private school established around the same time, according to the Free Press. The senator's campaign responded to the report by attacking the "liberal media."
Over the weekend, CNN reported that Hyde-Smith once promoted a measure that praised a Confederate soldier's effort to "defend his homeland" and had pushed a revisionist view of the Civil War.
In photos posted to her Facebook account in 2014, Hyde-Smith was pictured posing with Confederate artifacts during a visit to Beauvoir, the home and library of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The caption on the post read, "Mississippi history at its best!"
Espy's campaign hammered Hyde-Smith with television ads that cast her as an embarrassment to a state that has attempted to overcome its history of slavery and racism.
We should look at how many Boston Democrats sent their kids to private schools in the 1970's when riots broke out over forced segregation of public schools. But since we won't do that, the media will pick on Hyde Smith.
Hyde Smith might never have thought that she'd be in a position to run a statewide race against a black man. If she had, she almost certainly would have avoided commenting about the confederacy. But her insensitivity is there for all to see. Will it cost her?
Probably not enough to lose the race. Mississippi is a very Republican state and Espy has his own problems. He was indicted during the Clinton years for accepting improper gifts. And he is far more liberal than Mississippi voters can stomach.
If Hyde Smith wins, it will be despite the racial controversies that Democrats are playing for all their worth, and her own political tin ear about race.