Winter (war) is coming to Mississippi: What Nosef resignation signals

Published 7:51 am Thursday, October 19, 2017

Joe Nosef’s resignation as leader of the Mississippi Republican Party likely means only one thing: Political war is coming to the Magnolia State.

Nosef weathered the Tea Party vs. Traditional Conservative battle when Chris McDaniel challenged Thad Cochran in 2014, barely. McDaniel and the Tea Party said Nosef favored Cochran when both candidates were Republicans.

Cochran eeked out a victory, but Nosef had become public enemy of Breitbart News, its leader Steve Bannon, and many Tea Party members who didn’t believe he best represented the total Republican party.

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Now McDaniel, a Mississippi state senator, appears to be heading for a 2018 showdown with Sen. Roger Wicker – a battle that should make the uncomfortable McDaniel vs. Cochran race feel like a gentle afternoon breeze in comparison.

That’s certainly one big reason Nosef quit. Bannon recently declared war on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and allies and Sen. Wicker, a Republican who has served in the Senate since 2007, is an ally of McConnell.

Consider that Bannon met face-to-face as recently as late September with McDaniel, and the two reportedly discussed the next political steps for Mississippi’s Tea Party upstart. It should also be noted that McDaniel and Bannon met in Alabama, days after Bannon helped ultra-Conservative Roy Moore defeat Luther Strange, the more moderate candidate of the two.

Also consider that while Mississippi is majority Republican like Alabama, this state hasn’t jumped on the Trump and Tea Party bandwagon yet with the same enthusiasm. Both Wicker and Cochran are viewed as more establishment Republicans, while Alabama’s Moore is, well, unique unto himself.

McDaniel and Bannon are aiming to change, that, however, and Nosef’s mid-October resignation signals that the McDaniel vs. Wicker war is on.

There are also other signs that the political battle is brewing. Sen. Wicker has been publicly talking up President Donald Trump lately, for instance.

“President Trump’s actions will help…” Sen. Wicker said.

“One of my top priorities is to help President Trump…” Sen. Wicker said.

Sen. Wicker also debuted this week a new campaign website store – “Roger Wicker’s Great Mississippi Store!” it’s called. Listed for sale are items including camouflage hat with the slogan, “Clinging to My Guns and Religion” and koozies displaying same slogan. The hats and koozies are being promoted for sale with ads on conservative sites, with proceeds benefitting the Wicker for Senate campaign.

McDaniel hasn’t said yet if he is running or not, but has strongly hinted. The state senator recently aligned Wicker with McConnell, Bannon’s No. 1 enemy.

“Just about every conceivable thing McConnell has done is counter to conservative beliefs,” McDaniel said. “Roger Wicker has been the yes man on that on every single vote.”

In other words, this McDaniel vs. Wicker showdown is a bit like winter in Game of Thrones. We’re still a few episodes out, but you know that winter is coming, and you know it is going to be bad.

The reason for the intensity is that national influence will pour into Mississippi as a new wing of the Republican party tries to push out the establishment. Bannon himself calls the effort war. Such talk helped convince Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee to announce that he won’t seek re-election.

Sen. Wicker seems up for a fight, however, and hasn’t let the threat of a worthy opponent run him off. But rest assured, it will be a fight. The McDaniel vs. Cochran battle was called the most “vicious Senate race” in the U.S. in 2014 by one political observer.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” one Cochran insider observed.

So, here we are: Nosef is out, Wicker is selling hats that promote guns and religion, and winter is coming to Mississippi.

David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at