Mike Espy versus Cindy Hyde-Smith

news image

THE mid-term elections finally come to an end on November 27th, when Mississippians head to the polls to choose a new senator. Cindy Hyde-Smith, whom the state’s governor appointed to the seat when Thad Cochran resigned in April, faces off against Mike Espy, who represented the state’s second district in Congress before serving as Bill Clinton’s agriculture secretary. Ms Hyde-Smith is a white Republican, Mr Espy an African-American Democrat.

President Donald Trump won Mississippi by almost 20 points, and will headline a couple of rallies for Ms Hyde-Smith. Recent polls show her holding a comfortable but not commanding lead. Some take the president’s presence as a sign that things may be worse for Ms Hyde-Smith than polls suggest—a Republican incumbent in a Republican state should not need a presidential appearance to boost her numbers, the thinking goes. But Mr Trump loves boasting, congratulating himself and mocking his rivals in front of thousands of people. With Robert Mueller, the special counsel, reportedly close to indicting more people, the markets wobbling and a raft of stories over the weekend detailing his musings about stealing Iraq’s oil, one suspects Mr Trump needs the rally more than Miss Hyde-Smith does.

But perhaps not. Over the course of the campaign, Ms Hyde-Smith has morphed from bland seat-filler into something more noxious. Footage surfaced of her joking that if a supporter “invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row” (no state lynched more African-Americans than Mississippi). At another appearance she said, “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult” to vote for “liberal folks…who maybe we don’t want to vote.” Pictures on her Facebook page showed her posing with Confederate artefacts, and were captioned “Mississippi history at its best!” Her performance at the candidates’ sole debate—closed, reportedly at her request, to the press and public—was leaden, dreary and error-ridden. Afterward she took no questions from reporters, dispatching Roger Wicker, Mississippi’s other senator, instead.

Some Democrats see visions of Alabama, where they flipped a Senate seat late last year. But the two states are not analogous. Ms Hyde-Smith may be a dreadful politician whose feet repeatedly find their way into her mouth, but she is less toxic than Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama, who was accused of molesting several underage girls. In Alabama some Republicans crossed over, and others stayed home; Ms Hyde-Smith is unlikely to inspire similar levels of revulsion. Though no state has a higher percentage of African-Americans than Mississippi, its population is heavily rural, and thus harder to organise.

A survey by Associated Press found that one-third of Mississippi’s voters are black, and 80% of them support Mr Espy, meaning he might need to win around 30% of the white vote—a tall order. Mississippi has not elected a black senator since 1875. The last Democrats it elected were James Eastland and John Stennis, both committed segregationists. Mr Espy has a path to victory, but it is a fearsomely narrow one.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *