Republicans were becoming increasingly worried about their chances in the Mississippi U.S. Senate special election runoff. Many of them were seeing shades of Roy Moore in U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s inept runoff campaign and attacks by the national media and national Dems portraying her as a racist.
But a poll dropped this weekend from Louisiana-based Republican pollster John Couvillon and the Democratic firm Bold Blue Strategies, and sponsored by the Republican elections website RHH Elections seemed to calm GOP fears over this race. It showed Cindy Hyde-Smith leading Democrat Mike Espy 54-44 with just 1% undecided and a margin of error of 4%. The poll estimates turnout will be 64% white, 32% black, and 4% “other.”
Cindy Hyde-Smith’s performance is powered by her strength among white voters (84-15%) and Trump supporters (56% approval, winning 91-7%). Mike Espy is winning 98% of the black vote and 94% of the 43% of Mississippi voters who disapprove of Trump. But Espy is underperforming among white voters, only winning 15%.
Why is Cindy Hyde-Smith likely heading to victory? There are three major reasons.
- Cindy Hyde-Smith is not Roy Moore. Yes, Cindy Hyde-Smith has run an inept runoff campaign, but that’s not enough to defeat her in Mississippi. The Democrats seized on Hyde-Smith’s poor choice of words when she said she would attend a public hanging with a supporter. Despite her apology, national Democrats and their media allies tried to paint her as a racist. The latest attack on Hyde-Smith came from the alternative weekly Jackson Free Press which pointed out she attended one of the numerous all-white private schools that were set up to avoid desegregation. The problem with this line of attack is that many if not most Mississippi white families sent and still send their kids to these schools. Mississippi’s public schools generally suck so there is no incentive for these families to change their behavior. Long story short, this line of attack may make national Democrats and their “social justice warrior” allies feel good, but won’t help Espy.
- Mike Espy is not Doug Jones. Doug Jones was able to defeat Roy Moore because Moore was uniquely awful and he ran as a relatively centrist candidate. Mike Espy cannot make that claim. He is a former congressman and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture who cannot shake corruption allegations. Espy has also run a poor campaign that has emphasized racial issues which have alienated white voters. He would have been better off running an economic populist campaign along the lines of Jones and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.
- Espy has failed to win crossover voters. Mike Espy has failed to get the crossover support he needs from white voters and Trump supporters. Barring that, Espy needs a historically massive black turnout but even that may not be enough.
Here’s a scenario where whites are only 60% of the vote, blacks are 36%, “others” (Asians and Hispanics) are 4%. If Espy wins 98% of the black vote, 75% of the “others”, and just 15% of the white vote, he still loses 53-47%.
However, if the racial demographics were the same as the poll (more white and less black than the above scenario) but Espy won just 25% of the white vote, it would be a 50-50 race.
Now it’s prediction time. I think the turnout scenario will be slightly more black than this weekend’s poll, but I just don’t see Mike Espy getting the white votes he needs to win.
Prediction: Cindy Hyde-Smith 53.5%
Mike Espy 46.5%