Gov. Phil Bryant, a self-described “close friend” of President Donald Trump, talked earlier this month about the importance of a Trump endorsement to 2019 Republican candidates in ruby red Mississippi.
“We’ll be reaching out to the White House,” Bryant said on Sept. 9 at a GOP unity luncheon. “He’s got a lot of jobs to do, but I hope there will be an opening somewhere along the schedule before November. I hope and I intend to welcome him here when he comes to campaign for Republicans.”
In the three states hosting gubernatorial elections this year — Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana — Republican leaders are banking on campaign visits from Trump. The president’s rallies on behalf of candidates in red states have become a hallmark of his presidency. In 2018, Trump stumped in Mississippi three times for U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.
But as Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives this week launched an impeachment inquiry of Trump, the true effect of the “Trump bump,” as it’s become known since he was elected in 2016, is an open question.
“I actually think there are very few things that could galvanize and energize the Trump base of voters in Mississippi to the extent this could,” said Nathan Shrader, chair of the Department of Government and Politics at Millsaps College. “An active impeachment inquiry this close to our November election and right before the presidential primaries could fire up the Trump base and ensure that they’ll be more susceptible than ever to a message from the Mississippi Republican Party and Trump when he inevitably steps off Air Force One in Mississippi.”
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Republican nominee for governor, has worked hard this year to highlight his support of Trump. The Reeves campaign reached out to the White House to discuss the possibility of a presidential campaign stump, The Hill reported earlier this month.
Several Reeves television and social media ads this year have mentioned Trump. Since he announced his 2019 campaign on January 3, Reeves has tweeted about Trump 47 times.
After the announcement of the Trump impeachment inquiry on Tuesday afternoon by Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the California Democrat who Reeves has often paired with Jim Hood, his Democratic opponent in the governor’s race — Reeves tweeted out his support of Trump.
“There is only one reason that Democrats are rushing towards impeachment,” Reeves tweeted on Wednesday morning. “They can’t risk letting the American people decide this election. They know their agenda has been rejected. This New Democrat party is out of control and truly dangerous.”
Trump, who has not yet announced a Mississippi or Louisiana stump, visited Kentucky in August to campaign for Matt Bevin, the state’s Republican governor who is running for reelection.
Another U.S. president facing the possibility of impeachment stopped in Mississippi. In April 1974, after impeachment proceedings had begun in the House of Representatives, President Richard Nixon spoke at the Mississippi Coliseum before 10,000 enthusiastic supporters.
The Mississippi visit was one of several Nixon made that spring to garner support in a campaign against impeachment.
The New York Times wrote of Nixon’s trip: “In 1972, Mississippi gave Mr. Nixon the largest margin of support of any state, 78 percent, and a popular view here today is that the President is being persecuted by liberal Democrats and the news media. The Jackson Daily News, in a front page editorial under a red, white and blue flag welcoming the President, said Mr. Nixon had been ‘electronically lynched each evening in the living rooms of the land,’ and that a poll of the newspaper’s readers showed that 97.7 percent wanted the President to ‘hang in there’ and serve out the remainder of his term.”
Less than four months later, Nixon resigned the presidency as the House was poised to file articles of impeachment.
Contributing: Bobby Harrison