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Takeaways from Neshoba 2018

Takeaways from Neshoba 2018

By: Editor - August 3, 2018

There were several key themes or match-ups in the 2018 edition of political speaking at Founders Square Pavilion in Neshoba County.  No one article will catch everything, but there were some themes that stood out to me.

There was the Tate Reeves versus Jim Hood subtext.  Another marquee storyline was how the three main candidates in the US Senate Special election, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mike Espy and Chris McDaniel would fare.  And then, as always, there were some unexpected storylines like the remarks of Michael Ted Evans.

We have all of the speeches catalogued at




Tate Reeves vs. Jim Hood

With all of the back and forth in recent weeks about the MDOT dust up over a frontage road in Rankin County, there was a good bit of anticipation as to the remarks.  It was also seen as a preview to what might be a gubernatorial matchup.

For his part, it was not the standard Jim Hood Neshoba County Fair speech on cybercrime and fighting perverts.  He was more policy driven and got in several backhanded jabs at Reeves throughout the speech.  At one point where he was talking about his role as a prosecutor and how he can’t talk about what he wanted to talk about (clearly inferring the Rankin County road investigation) he said he would speak after “indictments”.

Most of his speech, like that of his compatriots David Baria and Michael Ted Evans, was that Mississippi’s economy was not as good as advertised.

Reeves started his speech with something that Hood did not – his family on the stage.  As in past campaigns, expect the Reeves family to be a big part of the visuals of a campaign in 2019.  Reeves’s remarks were generally what you would expect.  He touted Mississippi’s economic accomplishments under his tenure.  He praised President Trump, and he vowed to hold the line on taxation in Mississippi.  Like Hood, he had several backhanded jabs at his prospective gubernatorial opponent.


Special US Senate Election

The surprise for me was that there weren’t too many surprises in the speeches.

McDaniel had about 75 really well organized supporters in the Pavilion, and that’s enough to make a splash with.  They were rowdy, but not necessarily in a bad way.  His speech was anticipated because other than small gatherings, he had not had any big media events or gatherings to speak of in the past few months.

McDaniel’s speech was standard in his assertions of being more exclusively conservative than anyone else in Mississippi, but turned a bit reflective and almost somber at times.  “What will today be, how will we remember Neshoba Mississippi? Will this be a day of a funeral or a day of a resurrection, a day of mourning or revival? Is the Reagan Revolution still underway or has it been discarded in the ash bin of history,” said McDaniel.

Espy’s speech sandwiched in the middle of McDaniel’s and Hyde-Smith’s was an exercise in trying to put distance between himself and the party of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

He touted his independence repeatedly.


Hyde-Smith certainly had a lot of support under the Pavilion.  Again, McDaniel supporters were rowdy but not to the point where they completely beclowned themselves as in 2014.  Hyde-Smith lightheartedly pointed them out as they reacted to a few of her comments throughout the speech, but her speech was pretty standard fare of gratitude for the position and her commitment to continue to work with President Trump on his agenda.


The MTE Incident

The speech that Democratic Congressional nominee Michael Ted Evans gave was roundly praised and lionized by those in the traditional media.  He had some folksy references to the “Rankin County mafia” and had is “aw-shucks-good-ole-boy” turned up to 11.  His veiled digs about the current officeholder, Rep. Gregg Harper, drew some agitation from Harper who spoke after Evans.  Harper’s remarks seem to put Evans back in his place.

However, more notably Evans was allowed by the traditional media establishment to get away with something that no Republican in Mississippi could ever get away with.  When talking about his views on legalizing immigrants to become citizens he stated that, “I hadn’t ever seen no Mexican cross the border with a college degree” and “If you want a clean motel room in the state of Mississippi, you’ve got to have immigrants to clean ‘em”.  There was but a passing reference to remarks in the coverage by one paper.

Had any Republican uttered those words in the same context, reporters would be knife-fighting each other to figure out who could get the story up first.  Cartoons would be drawn.  Editorials would be hastily written calling for the resignation of that person.  National media would fly in trying to tie the narrative to the perceived backwater nature of Mississippians in the national conscience.

On Thursday, Governor Phil Bryant laid down a marker and absolutely annihilated the media for their (lack of) coverage of Evans remarks.  In many ways, the last 90 seconds of his fair speech may have stolen the show on all of the political speaking, at least for those in attendance.

It’s unlikely you’ll see or hear about this anywhere else in Fair speaking coverage unless you were there.

The scuttlebutt around the Pavilion was that Evans’s goose is probably cooked in the third district race.  However, there was speculation that this is just a warmup for 2019, where some speculate that he’ll run for highway commissioner seat that Dick Hall currently occupies.  That’s a rough district for Republicans, and an Evans vs. Hall matchup would likely be a real race.


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