Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith holds the edge in the Mississippi Senate runoff today. Mississippi is typically a red state but Hyde-Smith’s comments about a “public hanging” and allegations of racism have given the race an air of uncertainty.
On Nov. 6, Hyde-Smith, the Republican appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to replace Thad Cochran after his retirement, bested three other candidates but failed to win the majority required. Today’s runoff pits her against the Democrat Mike Espy, the second-place finisher.
After the Nov. 6 election, a video surfaced of Hyde-Smith complimenting a supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the first row.” In a second video, the senator joked that “maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult” for “liberal folks” to vote, a controversial statement amid charges of voter suppression by Democrats. Other controversies have also erupted amid allegations that Hyde-Smith attended a segregated private school after Mississippi schools were integrated and that she cosponsored a resolution honoring a former Confederate soldier who “fought to defend his homeland and contributed to the rebuilding of the country.”
The racial aspect of the campaign may have a big impact since Mississippi is a state where blacks make up 38 percent of the population. Only 32 percent of the electorate on Nov. 6 was black, but the allegations about Hyde-Smith and the fact that the Democratic candidate is black may encourage black voters to turn out for the runoff in larger numbers. Mississippi allows registered voters to vote in the runoff even if they did not vote in the Nov. 6 election.
There has been only one public poll of the runoff. The RRH Elections survey found Hyde-Smith leading Espy by a 54-44 percent margin. While this seems to be a comfortable margin, the fact that President Trump conducted a series of rallies in the state seems to indicate that Republicans are leaving nothing to chance.
Polls close in Mississippi at 7:00 p.m. Central time. If Hyde-Smith retains her seat, Republicans will have a 53-47 advantage when the new Congress convenes next year.
Originally published on the Resurgent