National Republican Senatorial Committee polling shows Hyde-Smith in third place in a prospective match-up, trailing McDaniel and a prospective Democratic candidate.
White House officials this week told Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant that President Donald Trump did not plan to campaign for or endorse Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith if she was appointed to the state’s open Senate seat, saying they were worried that the former Democrat would lose.
Bryant responded that he intended to pick Hyde-Smith for the post, anyway. He went ahead and formally announced Hyde-Smith, who had previously been serving as the state agricultural commissioner, as his selection Wednesday, praising her “intellect, compassion, toughness and determination to get things done.”
During a phone call Tuesday, administration officials told Bryant that Hyde-Smith’s past history as a Democrat would hobble her in the special election contest for the seat being vacated by longtime GOP Sen. Thad Cochran. Hyde-Smith switched parties in 2010 while serving in the state Senate.
The conversation was described by two White House aides with direct knowledge of the call.
The message underscored the profound misgivings the administration and senior Republicans have about the Hyde-Smith pick.
Republicans are deeply concerned that Chris McDaniel, an anti-establishment conservative state senator who is running for the seat, will use Hyde-Smith’s past party affiliation against her in the race. In recent days, the White House and other senior Republicans reviewed polling conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee showing Hyde-Smith in third place in a prospective match-up, trailing McDaniel and a prospective Democratic candidate.