A top campaign official for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has been highly critical of Donald Trump’s style and substance, or lack thereof, illustrating the struggle for some Republicans — even in a conservative bastion like Mississippi — to embrace the man who now defines their party.
Hyde-Smith has been eager to have Trump’s blessing, even prematurely saying he had endorsed her campaign, and is one of only three senators to vote with him 100 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis.
But in July, a Republican challenging Hyde-Smith criticized her campaign manager for calling Trump a “con artist” in the 2016 cycle.
It turns out her deputy campaign manager, Kaeley Gemmill, isn’t a fan of the GOP standard-bearer either.
During one of the 2016 presidential debates, Gemmill, then a law student at the University of Mississippi, wrote to Trump on Twitter: “you sound like a tired sound bite. NO SUBSTANCE in anything you say, quit spitting out over used platform points.”
After Trump tweeted in June 2017 that “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski — whom he referred to as “I.Q. Crazy Mika” — had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she visited Mar-a-Lago months earlier, Gemmill chided him for tweeting “unacceptable, hateful things” despite being “the leader of the free world.”
“Just do your job,” Gemmill wrote.
In July 2016, she quoted Nicolle Wallace’s praise for President Barack Obama’s remarks that “really made the case against” Trump and “detached Trumpism from the Republican Party.”
According to Federal Election Commission records, Gemmill has received more than $25,000 from Hyde-Smith’s campaign since joining in June.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate in April to replace Sen. Thad Cochran and finished first in the Nov. 6 special election to serve the remainder of Cochran’s term.
But since no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, voters will pick between Hyde-Smith and former Rep. Mike Espy, a Democrat who also served as secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton, in a runoff election on Nov. 27.
During the campaign, a fellow Republican candidate, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, criticized Hyde-Smith’s campaign manager, Jordan Russell, who slammed Trump while working for Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in 2016.
“Donald Trump scammed hard-working Americans by taking their money for his phony Trump University, and he is scamming conservatives now by acting as if he is one of them,” Russell said at the time.
McDaniel worked to keep Trump from endorsing Hyde-Smith shortly after her appointment was announced, calling her a weak contender who didn’t have his conservative bona fides and slammed her for being a former Democrat.
“She is very unlikely to make the run-off in November, which is why we are writing to you, asking that you not lend your name to a candidate that is likely to lose,” McDaniel’s supporters wrote to Trump in a March statement released by his campaign.
Hyde-Smith responded to criticism of her past as a Democrat pointing to many other politicians who had switched parties, including the current leader of the GOP.
“Well, 20 years ago when I ran, everyone else was [a Democrat],” she told The Washington Examiner. “And I’ve been a Republican longer than Donald Trump.”
Now, she paints herself as a Trump Republican — even if her top staffers aren’t.
In August, after Trump endorsed her campaign, she posted a photo of her standing with Trump, both flashing a thumbs-up.