JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tate Lewis was at the Mississippi GOP headquarters in Jackson on Election Day. As executive director, Lewis said he spent most of the daylight hours answering phone calls and putting out the occasional fire.
Then as the sun went down he watched the results come in while keeping in contact with county chairs from across the state.
He described that night as “interesting,” adding that from a Republican’s standpoint, in Mississippi “we did great.” Judicial races went well, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith nabbed a win and nationally House Republicans exceeded expectations by actually picking up seats.
“But then, of course, as we’re watching the national race, it— we were hoping that the president could have prevailed...” Lewis admitted. “I think we did better than what people were projecting nationally, so that was good. But then also, of course, the top of the ticket, umm, it was a little disappointing that night.”
As of right now, President Trump is still fighting the results of that night. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Trump’s personal attorney, has repeatedly alleged “massive fraud” across the country during the election.
Because of this, the president’s legal team has scattered 30 lawsuits in various states but according to NBC News, out of the 36 cases filed, 24 have been “denied, dismissed, settled or withdrawn.”
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Trump supporter who helped prepare him for his first debate against Joe Biden, has recently gone so far as to call the lawsuits and Trump’s legal operation a “national embarrassment.”
Lewis did not go that far in his assessment of Trump’s election battles. Instead, he simply said that every legal vote should be counted and that the courts are in place to look at each reported instance of voting irregularity.
“If there is an issue with voter fraud, I think it should be dealt with in the courts but it looks like it’s an uphill climb right now,” Lewis stated.
As to Trump’s assertion that the election was stolen from him or rigged against him, Lewis said, “I would like to hear the evidence of it,” and that Trump and his team may be privy to something that he is not aware of. But on the assumption that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States, Lewis is most fearful of a Biden administration undoing a lot of what he sees as President Trump’s greatest accomplishments.
“We saw a great economic bounce back,” Lewis said. “Of course with coronavirus hitting when it did I think that was a setback, but even after coronavirus and once the economy got going again we saw momentum starting to pick back up. My biggest fear is that will diminish and that some of the great successes that we had in the last four years will be undone.”
There has also been interest on whether a President Joe Biden would be a moderate Democrat or if he could be swayed further to the Left. To Lewis, Biden is in “a very unique position” and will have to figure out “on his own terms” what kind of president he will be.
“He’s got a very, very loud base in his party that’s gonna be pushing him [to the Left].” Even so, Lewis hopes Republicans can hold the Senate and that, hopefully, “that will be standing in [Biden’s] way..”
But as to what Biden may or may not do in office remains to be seen, speculation has also grown about what Trump might do once he is out of office. His own media company has been rumored, but so has a second run for president in 2024.
When asked if he could see Trump running again in four years, Lewis had to think about it.
“Umm,” he said before taking a pause. “I mean, it’s hard to tell just what he does next.” Trump may go back to being a businessman, but Lewis could also envision him wanting to build on his legacy.
“A lot can happen in four years and we’ll just have to see the state of the country and the party and kinda make the decision from there,” Lewis said. “But I believe the president will still be around in some shape or form.”
No matter what Trump’s future may hold, it is clear that he has forever cemented an historic place in American politics. Among amassing an army of loyal supporters, he also received more votes than any other sitting president in U.S. history with over 73 million and counting.
And his popularity in Mississippi was inarguable, squashing Biden by nearly 17 percent. Surprisingly though, Sen. Hyde-Smith did not defeat Mike Espy by that same margin. She received 54 percent of the vote to Espy’s 44 percent. A ten point difference. Why was that?
“I mean, it’s hard to get in the mind of every single voter,” Lewis responded. “I think that it’s something that everyone’s always kinda toyed with... split ticket voting. It’s something that some people just practice out of principal because they don’t want to see one party take all control and I think that there’s enough people who do that… They want a balance in Washington D.C.”
Hyde-Smith did grow her lead against Espy from her showing in 2018′s special election where she defeated him by seven points. Lewis said this was probably due in part because Trump was on the ballot this year and because Hyde-Smith ran what he saw as a disciplined campaign. He also said that, in his view, Espy went further to the Left.
Lewis said that this poll did make him “a little uncomfortable” and made the Mississippi GOP look at their own turnout models. “Are we missing something?” they asked themselves. “Are we just not seeing this happen?”
But being on the ground and going to some events for Hyde-Smith made him feel better about where things stood. Lewis also described Hyde-Smith as being “very confident” going into Election Day.
“Again, doing what we do,” he said, “I think hearing things on the ground is where I get my feelings on where the momentum’s at.”
“I think that what happened on November 3 is showing that the Republican Party is strong here,” Lewis said, “that the base is strong here.”
He thinks the story of if Mississippi could flip one day will never go away but, for now, Mississippi bleeds red.
As Tate Lewis watched the returns come in from the Mississippi GOP headquarters, Pam Johnson watched them from her couch that night into the early morning.
From the political consultant’s point of view, Joe Biden has won the election. She said that all of the “level-headed folks” who are involved in counting the votes say that they were legally cast and now hopes “that the current president would behave like a leader and go ahead and do what we’ve always done in America and that is have a cordial handing off of the keys to the White House.”
Regarding the current lawsuits by the Trump team, Johnson thinks it’s significant that most of them have failed and that some attorneys on the Trump team have even walked away from the cases. But when it came to Giuliani’s much-discussed press conference on November 19, Johnson said she walked away not feeling embarrassed but “distressed.”
“It was a really sad sight to see and I think that it’s just time for everybody to take their papers and go on to the house and let this be a pleasant time of transfer of power,” she said.
As to why Biden prevailed in the election, Johnson thinks it’s because he presented an opportunity for America to heal itself from its current division and that he offers a “level-headed, kind, thoughtful, intellectual opportunity for Americans to reestablish ourselves as a strong country, as a country that cares for one another and cares for other people.”
And on the question of whether Biden will remain moderate in his policies, Johnson believes his history shows that he will. “Joe Biden has never had a reputation for being some kind of wild-eyed, you know, liberal out there.”
She does think, though, that he will be one to “sit down and listen” to other viewpoints, especially from the younger section of his party.
“He understands that we have this dynamic, great, intelligent group of young folks coming up that he’ll pay attention to,” Johnson said. “He’ll give them a voice, but I don’t think he’s gonna run off and do something wild or opposed to his kind of centrist mindset.”
But when the conversation goes local and the topic of Mike Espy is brought up and why he lost his race against Sen. Hyde-Smith, Johnson has fewer answers. She admits that she has thought through this question over and over again, but always comes back empty.
“He did everything right I felt like. He was out there with the public, he had a great ground game and he had a great air game.” Because Espy was able to raise record breaking amounts of money, he was able to outspend Hyde-Smith by millions of dollars.
Over the course of his campaign, Espy took in more than $9 million compared to Hyde-Smith’s $3 million. He would then spend this money on television commercials, radio ads and, as Johnson pointed out, video game ads as well.
“My grandson was playing a video game and all of a sudden I heard Mike talking and I said, ‘Well, are you watching the news on your iPad?’ and he said ‘No, every time I get to another level I listen to Mike Espy.’”
Because of this ground game and air game, Johnson is left believing that Hyde-Smith just represented someone “who would go along with what [voters] wanted to see coming out of Washington” and that she “wouldn’t buck anything, she wouldn’t create any issues.”
“In a normal year and under normal circumstances, [Espy] would have most assuredly won, I believe,” Johnson stated. “But I think this phenomenon of Trumpism hurt him more than anyone thought it would. I really do.”
Johnson maintains that Hyde-Smith’s loyalty to Trump allowed her to be re-elected while largely remaining out of the spotlight. This included skipping a senate debate, declaring that “debates are a topic that losing candidates and reporters care about.”
“I’m always encouraging women to go into public service,” Johnson said, “but if you do that you gotta be able to stand on your own two feet and I can’t say that she has. I’m not saying she’s a bad person, I think she might be achieving as high as her capability would allow.”
As Johnson mulls what Espy’s loss means for the hopes of Mississippi one day becoming a toss-up, she comes to the conclusion that it probably won’t be a national focal point because of its small population.
She then suggested that if the state ever wanted to one day be on the national stage, state leaders must create an environment that welcomes and supports young people who do not feel the need to live their dreams in places like New York City, Atlanta or Houston.
“They ought to be able to do that right here and it’s on our state elected officials to see that it happens.” She does, however, see Biden’s victory in places like Georgia and Arizona as a harbinger of things to come. “I see the momentum building and it’ll get here. It’ll get to Mississippi sooner than later I believe.”