The final U.S. Senate race will be decided on Tuesday, and live results of the Mississippi special election will show if Cindy Hyde-Smith adds to the Republican advantage in the upper house or if Mike Espy can pull off the monumental upset.
Mississippi’s race was the only Senate seat not to be decided on Election Day (or the days that followed) as a “jungle primary” style election allowed several candidates from both parties. Because no one reached the 50 percent mark needed to win outright, Tuesday’s election will pit the top two vote-winners — Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy. Results are expected after polls close at 8 p.m. ET.
Though the race was originally thought to be a breeze for Republicans in one of the most solidly red states — and one where Donald Trump still enjoys high approval ratings — it has become tighter as Hyde-Smith stumbled through a series of racially charged controversies. She was seen joking that she would attend a public lynching if a certain supporter asked her to, and past pictures have emerged showing her proudly wearing a Confederate hat.
The controversies have given Democrats hope that they might be able to pull off an upset just as they had in Alabama after Republican Roy Moore found controversy of his own, but final polls show that Hyde-Smith was still able to maintain roughly a 10-point lead.
The conservative site RRH Elections polled Mississippi voters and found that Cindy Hyde-Smith was still up by 54 percent to 44 percent against Espy. The poll noted that the race is expected to come down to which side can better turn out their base.
“Hyde-Smith benefits from very strong support among white voters, Republicans, and those who approve of the president, while Espy collects near-unanimous support among black voters, Democrats, and those who disapprove of the president,” RRH Elections notes.
“With neither candidate demonstrating significant crossover support, the race will come down to the lean of the state and turnout.”
A win would increase the Republican advantage to 53-47 in the Senate, paving the way for them to confirm judges with greater ease, though there is still likely to be gridlock with a newly Democratic-controlled House once the new members are sworn in early next year. For Democrats, the unlikely victory may not change the makeup of the Senate, but would send a strong message that no state may be out of their reach in 2020.