Trump Swoops In To Rally For Embattled Senate Republican
Posted Monday, November 26, 2018 - 11:18 am
President Donald Trump heads Monday to Mississippi in a bid to save the Senate campaign of a Republican whose racially insensitive comments sparked a backlash.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is locked in an unusually tight runoff in the final Senate race of the 2018 midterms, and Trump’s hosting two election-eve rallies in the southern state reflects the precariousness of the incumbent’s campaign.
Trump’s mission will be to rally the faithful toward Hyde-Smith, who has faced campaign setbacks after her comments this month about a “public hanging” seemed to allude to Mississippi’s tortured history of lynching of African Americans.
But he is also expected to use his first public event since last week’s Thanksgiving holiday to stoke fears about a Central American migrant caravan that has reached the US southern border with Mexico.
US agents fired tear gas at migrants who attempted to rush the border from Tijuana, Mexico, into the United States, in tense scenes that angered Trump.
Trump’s Republican base is fiercely opposed to illegal immigration, and addressing the issue at his rallies in Tupelo at 4:15 pm (2115 GMT) and then Biloxi is a sure way to fire up conservative voters hours before Mississippi’s runoff.
Should Republicans hold the seat, it will secure their 53-47 Senate majority. Democrats reclaimed the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
The Mississippi runoff features Hyde-Smith, who is white, against former congressman Mike Espy, an African American who said his opponent has “rejuvenated old stereotypes” about Mississippi.
Hyde-Smith, a former state lawmaker who was appointed to her US Senate seat in April to fill a vacancy, startled observers this month when she said she would be “on the front row” if one of her supporters “invited me to a public hanging.”
She apologized during a recent debate with Espy, but insisted her remark was “twisted” by opponents for political gain.
She was also recorded telling a small group at a university that it would be “a great thing” to suppress votes of liberal students. Her campaign said that was a joke.
But there have been other revelations about Hyde-Smith’s past.
The Jackson, Mississippi Free Press reported that in the 1970s Hyde-Smith attended a private high school that helped white parents avoid integration efforts, and later sent her own daughter to a similar private school.
Photographs from 2014 have surfaced of Hyde-Smith posing with artifacts from the Confederate south, which supported slavery during the 19th C Civil War.
In 2001 as a state senator, she introduced legislation to rename a highway after Confederacy president Jefferson Davis, The Washington Post reported.
The state has voted reliably Republican for the past 30 years.
Hyde-Smith and Espy are runoff-bound because no candidate gained a majority in the November 6 election, when far-right Republican Chris McDaniel gained 16 percent of the vote.
Many of his supporters are expected to back Hyde-Smith.
© Agence France-Presse