MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - National attention is now focused on Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and her Democratic challenger Mike Espy. One recent poll is showing Hyde-Smith up by one percentage point.
If this race sounds familiar, it’s because an identical one took place in 2018. Hyde-Smith beat Espy by eight points in a special election then to fill the seat of longtime Senator Thad Cochran.
The two are running again, but the circumstances now politically are different.
As Joe Biden’s lead in national polling has widened, Democratic strategists are looking toward U.S. Senate races that could be pickups, giving them control of the top chamber of Congress.
Though a Mike Espy victory is considered by some a long shot, others said it isn’t out of the question.
“We’ve always seen the energy on the ground. It’s been organic. We go out, and people want to see a change in our state,” said Jared Turner, Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign for Mississippi, Director.
A poll released in late September had Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith up one percentage point, following a separate poll released in mid-August that had her up 5 points. An additional poll publicized in June gives Hyde-Smith an 8 percentage point lead.
Henry Barbour is a Mississippi Republican strategist and said the added national attention by Democrats may not make a difference as President Donald Trump remains popular in the state.
Espy has courted black voters this cycle as well as Mississippi Republicans who have soured on Trump.
“There is a lot of money coming in to support Mike Espy. But I don’t think it changes things dramatically,” said Barbour. “One thing that I don’t think has changed is the basic conservative views of Mississippians haven’t changed. And that makes it difficult to win.”
Hyde-Smith said earlier this week she’s working toward confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming days.
“We are very excited about confirming Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and that is important. And it does take precedent,” she said.
Espy said an action like that is improper.
“Here we are rushing and rushing and rushing to put Judge Barrett on the Supreme Court. It’s just too fast,” said Espy.
The two candidates have not debated in this election cycle.
A campaign spokesperson for Mike Espy told WMC Action News 5 that he has accepted debate invitations from two Jackson, Mississippi television stations, one of which is our sister station WLBT-TV.
A campaign spokesperson for Senator Hyde-Smith said Friday on a debate they are weighing their options and working to see what will fit with the schedule, adding “nothing has been ruled out at this time.”