Cindy Hyde-Smith must believe her reelection as Mississippi’s junior U.S. senator is in the bag.
How else to explain the Republican incumbent’s refusal to debate her well-funded Democratic challenger Mike Espy/
Hyde-Smith has claimed she is just too busy in Washington to fit in a face-to-face against Espy, the former congressman and U.S. secretary of agriculture. Besides, she said in an interview, most voters don’t feel it’s an issue when candidates can’t agree to debate.
“To be honest with you, the debate about debates, that is something that losing candidates and reporters care about,” Hyde-Smith said.
Maybe so, but voters do find it helpful for serious candidates for public office to get on the same stage and make their case in a less scripted manner than what they put out in advertising.
In this contest, there is plenty to talk about: President Trump’s leadership during the pandemic that has claimed more than 220,000 American lives; Mississippi’s refusal to expand Medicaid to cover the working poor; U.S. farm and trade policies; racial justice and urban unrest; the exploding federal deficit; the Senate confirmation process for Supreme Court justices; and we could go on.
Hyde-Smith has obviously concluded that she has nothing to gain from providing Espy with free airtime on top of his sizable fundraising advantage. She beat Espy two years ago in a special election when he also outspent her. Her incumbency and the GOP domination in Mississippi will be tough again for extra money to overcome.
Even if Hyde-Smith’s political calculation is correct, it is disappointing that she doesn’t feel an obligation to defend her record and discuss the issues in a public forum.