Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran stepped down effective April 1, 2018 due to health concerns. He would have been up for reelection in 2020. Republican Governor Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill the vacancy in the short term, but she will have to win a special election, to take place on November 6, 2018 (regularly scheduled Election Day), to complete the balance of the term.
That primary is what is now called a nonpartisan “jungle primary” in which candidates from both parties run. If anyone gets more than 50 percent, that person is elected. If no one gets to that mark, the top two candidates participate in a run-off, which in this case would, if needed, take place on November 27, 2018.
In keeping with the current trend in which red states and congressional districts are finding Democrats annoyingly competitive, a new poll* in Mississippi finds the leading Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep Mike Espy, and Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith running tied at 31 percent each in a field that contains two Democrats and two Republicans.
In total, the Democratic vote adds up to 39.3 percent, and the Republican vote to 45.8 percent, with 14.9 percent undecided.
An analysis also provided a glimpse of what a run-off might look like going in with Espy at 35.8 percent, Hyde-Smith at 41.6 percent, and 22.6 percent undecided.
The poll revealed this bit, for what it’s worth:
President Donald Trump’s approval rating was at 46 percent, with 41 percent disapproving and 13 percent undecided. Of those polled, 32 percent said Trump’s support of a candidate in Mississippi would make them more likely to vote for them, 37 percent said less likely and 31 percent said it would make no difference.
A Democrat hasn’t held a senate seat in Mississippi for almost 30 years, and that Democrat, John Stennis, began his tenure in 1947 as a strong supporter of racial segregation (see current state flag above). As a side note, in 1986, Stennis campaigned for Mike Espy during Espy’s successful bid to become the first black Congressman from the state since Reconstruction.
If Democrats start to win senate seats in Mississippi under the current understanding of what it means to be a Democrat in the South, you can be sure end times are coming. Put differently, Cochran won the seat four years ago by more than 20 point.
It shouldn’t be this close.
*The poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted by Triumph Campaigns for Y’all Politics on April 10-11. It shows the following results. The poll’s partisan split was 44.6 percent Republican, 44.6 percent Democrat and 10.8 percent independent. Respondents to the automated phone poll were heavily female, 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent, and were 61 percent white, 39 percent nonwhite.