Tate Reeves should be the one having a good time in Washington, D.C. today. He should have taken the appointment to replace Thad Cochran and fought off Mike Espy’s campaign in 2018. He should be in Washington learning, building relationships and biding his time.

It might not be ideal, but it’s not too late. For the good of Mississippi, Tate Reeves should withdraw from the governor’s race and instead run for U.S. Senate in 2020.

Politically, running for Senate looks safer for Reeves than running for Governor. He’s behind Jim Hood in the polls. But he may not even get to Hood with Chief Justice Bill Waller’s entry into the race. Do not sleep on Waller’s chances.

If you see Waller at lunch and greet him, he’s very friendly. You like him. You think he likes you. That’s a gift most of us don’t have. It’s in Waller’s DNA.

I had Waller’s father (the former Governor) as opposing counsel in one case. He was late in his career and could be crusty. But by the end of that case, I loved that man. He was honest, straightforward and endearing. Waller, Sr. once made my all time favorite deposition objection: “What in the hell does that have to do with any damn thing?

Reeves doesn’t have that. But he doesn’t need it to be a Senator. See, e.g., McConnell, Mitch.

Mississippi needs a powerful senator. Jim Eastland, John Stennis, Thad Cochran, Trent Lott, Roger Wicker, Cindy Hyde-Smith. We are moving in the wrong direction. We’ve replaced powerful senators with empty suits. This is going to haunt us if it doesn’t change.

Wicker doesn’t have it. He is weak and doesn’t understand power. Letting someone else (whether it’s a Texas Senator or Phil Bryant) pick the replacement for Fifth Circuit Judge Grady Jolly proves that.

Word on the street is Wicker doesn’t care about judges. Well then he’s a moron. It’s not about caring about judges. It’s about caring about power. Wicker doesn’t care or doesn’t understand the accumulation and exercise of power.

But what about Reeves? What’s his biggest knock as Lieutenant Governor? That he cares too much about the accumulation and exercise of power. He would be perfect for the Senate. That’s a feature, not a bug in the Senate.

Wicker was just re-elected to a 6-year term, so we’re never getting rid of him.

But Cindy Hyde-Smith has to run again in 2020. That’s the seat Reeves needs to slide into. If necessary, Reeves will have to primary Cindy Hyde-Smith in 2020. But it shouldn’t be necessary. Republican leadership needs to convince her to not run in 2020. She’s not a good fit. She had to draft Roger Wicker to be her mouthpiece in the 2018 campaign. She will never be an influential senator.

Yes, Reeves could probably have that job now if he had wanted it. But that’s water under the bridge.

Change of plans. What’s a terrible mistake attorneys repeatedly make? Forgetting litigation is fluid and not adjusting strategy, tactics and/or valuation as the case proceeds. For Reeves, this is a fluid situation. He should shift his political strategy.

Reeves would be a better senator than governor. His role model should be Mitch McConnell, not Phil Bryant. That’s not a knock on Bryant. He does his thing very well. But Bryant couldn’t be a McConnell. Maybe Reeves could.

Reeves would be a better senator than the ones we have now.  He would only have to run once instead of the twice if he had been appointed to replace Cochran. He would not have to run again until 2026. By 2035, he could easily be one of the most powerful men in Washington.

Reeves is a better fit for the Senate. Waller or Hood would be better fits for Governor. Reeves would be a better Republican candidate against Mike Espy in 2020.

That election may not be a replay of 2018. In a presidential election year, black voter turnout should be higher than 2018. Espy needs that to offset where he lost the 2018 race: the Coast. Espy clearly thinks he can beat Hyde-Smith in 2020–he’s already qualified to run.

By the way, Jim Hood needs to spend half his time on the Coast between now and November.

Reeves could score points if he did this right. He could have a press conference and say he’s always wanted to be Governor. But he realizes that Mississippi needs him more in Washington, D.C. So he’s sacrificing his lifetime dream for Mississippi.

Have you seen how old U.S. Senators are? Reeves is in his 40’s. He could be in leadership by 60. He would have more power, make more money and never have a serious challenger in an election. It’s a better move for him and Mississippi.

So what are the chances of this happening? None. Mississippi never does the smart thing.

  • Pieter T

    For someone who professes not to know (or is it like ?) politics, that’s a really well written column with sound political reasoning.