Cindy Hyde-Smith and GOP, needing help from ‘Chris McDaniel Country,’ get good news

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi TodayChris McDaniel waves at supporters during a campaign stop on Lakeland Drive in Flowood Monday, November 5, 2018.
LAUREL — As Chris McDaniel hopped in his wife’s SUV in Ellisville on Tuesday night to break the bad news to his supporters gathered at a watch party in Laurel, his campaign communications director Tanner Watson received a text message from a senior adviser to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Gov. Phil Bryant.
“Chris have any interest in talking to Phil?” the adviser texted Watson.
For years, McDaniel has been a thorn in the side of establishment Republicans in Mississippi. He’s built his political career on tearing down figures like Hyde-Smith. Among GOP operatives, the traumatic effects of McDaniel’s near victory in 2014 and his splitting of the party still linger.
As polls in recent weeks indicated McDaniel’s inability to gain traction, Republican Party insiders stopped asking, “Can McDaniel beat us on November 6?” and started asking, “Can we win on November 27 without McDaniel’s help?”
The conversation Bryant wanted to have with McDaniel almost certainly would have focused on the latter question. The two never connected before McDaniel took the stage, and Bryant and party insiders at the Hyde-Smith headquarters in Jackson gathered around phones and laptops to watch live streams of McDaniel’s concession speech.
Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi TodayGov. Phil Bryant, right, stands behind Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith as she speaks to supporters during her watch party at the Westin Jackson Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
As it turned out, McDaniel didn’t need the nudge by Bryant.
“We now have to unite,” McDaniel told the crowd of teary-eyed and disappointed supporters. “Mr. Espy cannot be allowed to win this seat. President Trump wants us to unite, and we will unite. We will back Cindy Hyde-Smith. Now I don’t agree with her. I don’t believe she’s