Canadian, Russian, South African and Ukrainian models appear in U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s first 2020 campaign ad for her Mississippi campaigns—but no Mississippians. Instead, the ad uses stock footage from foreign production companies as the senator talks about the work she has done to bring jobs and economic growth to Mississippians.
“Two years ago when you elected me to the United States Senate, I made it my goal to represent all Mississippians. I haven’t focused on the political drama of Washington, D.C. I’ve focused on getting things done for you,” Hyde-Smith says in the ad. It then cuts to a clip of a woman working on a computer in an office setting—a clip filmed by StratfordProductions, a South Africa-based stock-footage production company.
Hyde-Smith has not made any publicly announced campaign appearances in the state since the 2018 special election, which took place after then-Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to fill a vacant Senate seat. Like Mississippi’s other U.S. senator, Roger Wicker, Hyde-Smith has not held any public town halls with constituents since she took office.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign began running the video ad on television and social media on Sept. 23. As Hyde-Smith continues to speak in the ad, she offers a list of things she has done for Mississippians.
“Like growing our economy with lower taxes, reducing regulations and helping farmers and small businesses bounce back during these uncertain economic times. Because my job is to work for you,” she says, as a montage plays, showing three other people that the ad implies are Mississippians. That includes a man in a hard hat working in a warehouse; a farmer walking through a field; and a woman flipping an “Open” sign in a café to “Closed.”
The Stockyards, a Canadian production company, produced the clip of the man in the warehouse; DedovStock, a Ukrainian production outfit, filmed the clip of the farmer; and Silverblackstock, a Russian company, made the clip of the woman in the café. The companies sell the footage on Shutterstock for between $79 and $179 a clip.
Hyde-Smith Mum on Campaign Events, Debate
Three days after releasing the ad, on Sept. 26, Hyde-Smith tweeted campaign photos of herself, wearing a mask and speaking with four supporters in Oxford, Miss., where she apparently made an unannounced visit with a handful of voters, though she did not inform the media or the general public.
Her Democratic opponent, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, has held a number of socially distanced, outdoor campaign events this month and earlier in the summer.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the ad or her campaign schedule on Monday.
In the Sept. 26 tweet, though, the senator referenced plans to see voters “on the campaign trail,” but with just over a month left until the election, Hyde-Smith has not announced any plans for public campaign events.
The senator also has not accepted invitations to debate her Democratic opponent. Earlier today, though, the senator offered her thoughts on the upcoming presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday evening.
“I just think that you’re going to continue to see more stark differences between the two candidates and how they handle themselves,” Hyde-Smith told the Washington, D.C.-based Gray TV news network. “And you know, the questioning, how that’s handled and the answers, the responses, and how diligently they’ll dive into all of the issues, which you and I both know will be a vast array of issues. … And it’ll be interesting to see how both candidates react and respond to the questions and what they have to say to the American people.”
The Mississippi Democratic Party sent an email out this evening criticizing Hyde-Smith “for refusing to debate Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Mike Espy while commenting on the importance of the presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden.”
Candidates Promise ‘Opportunity,’ Break on Health Care
If Hyde-Smith does agree to a debate with her Mississippi opponent, as she did when Espy first challenged her in 2018, the two candidates will have plenty of issues to discuss. The Democratic candidate has fixated his campaign on health care and the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which protects Americans from health-insurance discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; around 100,000 Mississippians also use the law to obtain coverage through healthcare.gov.
Hyde-Smith supports a Trump administration-backed lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear after the election that, if successful, could strike down the entire Affordable Care Act—including its pre-existing conditions protections. The incumbent senator says she supports protections for pre-existing conditions, but has not announced support for legislation that would reinstate those safeguards if the court struck the law down.
Espy has warned that Hyde-Smith’s support for Trump Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett could further increase the chance that the Supreme Court will strike down former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement. Barrett criticized a 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld the law.
“In Judge Barrett, I believe President Trump has chosen a qualified conservative jurist who, if confirmed, will bring an important perspective to the Court,” Hyde-Smith said in a statement on Sept. 26.
As a U.S. senator, Hyde-Smith has recently made some bipartisan overtures on issues, too.
On Sept. 24, the senator introduced the RESTART Act with Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada. If it became law, the bill would provide grants “for small and medium-sized STEM businesses to offer robust, paid, mid-career internships, known as ‘returnships,’ for mid-career workers seeking to return or transition into the STEM workforce,” Hyde-Smith and Rosen said in a Sept. 24 statement announcing the bill.
It would prioritize “returnships for underrepresented populations” to close the hiring gap, prioritizing women, Black and Latino Americans and people in rural communities, the senators said.
“We’re proposing a program to aid reentry into the workforce for underrepresented individuals with STEM-related skills. Our measure would help fulfill a need for qualified workers in small and mid-sized businesses that are driving STEM job growth,” Hyde-Smith said in the Sept. 24 statement. “I think this is a smart solution to help get people back to work, increase the financial standing of many families, and boost economic activity in growing states like Mississippi.”
Espy has also promised to implement jobs programs if he wins in November. He wants to expand the federal Opportunity Zones Program, which provides tax incentives to entities that invest in underprivileged locations.
Mississippians will vote in the U.S. Senate election on Nov. 3, 2020.