Saturday, September 01, 2018

Mississippi U.S. Senate B- Race of the Day

66 Days Until Election Day

Mississippi U.S. Senate B

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Two Republicans, one Democrat, and an Independent are competing on November 6th to win a special election to serve the next two years in the United States Senate. There was no primary election. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two contenders will take place three weeks later. If this is to happen, it will most certainly be between a Republican and a Democrat. Theoretically, control of the U.S Senate could be on the line, and that runoff could be nationalized to a massive extent.

This election is necessary because Republican Senator Thad Cochran resigned in April, after nearly 40 years representing his state in the Senate and six years before that in the U.S. House. The 80 year old Cochran had been dealing with health issues and was unable to cast votes or preside over the Senate Appropriations Committee. He was also in line to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Senate if he were still in office in 2019.

In 2014, Cochran had the reelection challenge of his career when State Senator Chris McDaniel opposed him from the right. It was a nasty campaign in which Cochran was accused of having an affair with his long-time aide as his wife had been in a facility for years with dementia. (After Mrs. Cochran passed away, the Senator did marry the woman.) Associates of the Tea Party backed McDaniel campaign were implicated on a scheme to take photos of the ill wife of the Senator in a nursing home. McDaniel finished ahead of Cochran in the primary and was expected to end his career in a runoff, but the incumbent's campaign reached out to Democrats and African-Americans to vote in the runoff, citing his longtime reputation as being racially inclusive. Cochran won in an upset, easily kept the seat in November from his heavily GOP state and returned to Washington. McDaniel cried foul for months, claiming he had been cheated in the runoff, but there was not much more he could do. He started running for the Senate seat of Mississippi's other incumbent Republican, but after Cochran resigned, switched to the special election instead.

In the meantime, it fell to term-limited Republican Governor Phil Bryant to pick a successor for Cochran. Some wanted Bryant to resign as Governor so he could be appointed to the seat himself (it would have been more unseemly perhaps if he appointed himself), but he did not have interest in that. Speculation then turned to both Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, but neither wanted the appointment either, with the impression being that both wanted to run for Governor when the office opened in 2019.

Governor Bryant would select Cindy Hyde-Smith, the state's elected Agriculture Commissioner. She served a decade in the State Senate as a Democrat, before switching parties and being elected statewide as a Republican. Some on the right cried foul, suggesting she had not been a Republican long enough or would not be as strong an advocate for Donald Trump in Washington (as if Trump was not a Democrat most of his life.) Indeed, Hyde-Smith had also served an an agriculture advisory group for Trump.

McDaniel switched races to join this contest, and one potential candidate from the anti-Trump wing of the party, however minor it might have been, looked at the race and a potential to advance to a runoff, but declined to run. Democrats initially had three candidates, including the Mayor of Tupelo, but without any voting, the party united behind the candidacy of Mike Espy. Hailing from a prominent African-American family in Mississippi, Espy had been elected to Congress in 1986 and served until incoming President Bill Clinton made him the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He lasted less than two years though, resigning under an ethical cloud surrounding the acceptance of gifts.

In 1997 Espy was indicted. He decided to fight the federal charges though and was acquitted the next year. His former Chief of Staff though was convicted in another case of making a false statement Espy spent the next years working as an attorney and mainly out of the political spotlight. He supported Mississippi's former Republican Governor for reelection in 2007, and after announcing his surprise political comeback, expressed his admiration for Senator Cochran.

Espy might have been a strong candidate at one point, but Mississippi is not friendly territory to Democrats, (with the seeming exception of Attorney General Jim Hood, who to this point has yet to succumb to the calls he seek a higher office.) Espy's past ethical history is also troublesome. Nonetheless, with two Republicans splitting the vote in this somewhat unique situation, there is a very real chance that Espy makes it to a runoff.

Polls have shown that the appointed incumbent leads Espy in the polls, but support for McDaniel in third place, making a runoff look somewhat likely. However, Hyde-Smith was probably helped a great deal with Donald Trump Tweeted his endorsement for her. That could make it tougher for McDaniel to generate support against her among conservatives.

Hyde-Smith could win a majority on November 6th and end the race. That is probably the slightly most likely outcome as of right now. Democrats would need to hope that somehow Espy and McDaniel would advance to a runoff, but it appears almost impossible to deny the incumbent a first place finish. In theory, a Democrat, especially Espy with his African-American base, should be expected to finish ahead of two major Republicans with a plurality, but the Magnolia State appears to red for that now.  It is hard to see how Espy would be able to beat her in a one-on-one race if it does go to a runoff. Still, this is an unusual political situation in Mississippi, worthy of more attention.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
11 D (7 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup), 
  4 R (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
34 D (23 holdovers, 7 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)
46 R (42 holdovers, 1 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Tossup)


Post a Comment

<< Home