This was a runoff election to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Thad Cochran who announced his retirement back in March. Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith held a strong lead in polling but there was talk in the last few days that this could turn into a closer race than it appeared. Now that the results are in, it looks like that was mostly wishful thinking coming from the left. About 30 minutes ago as I write this the race has been called and Cindy Hyde-Smith has defeated Mike Espy pretty handily. The final tally isn’t in yet but with 88% of precincts reporting, Hyde-Smith leads 54.8% to Espy’s 45.2 percent. From the NY Times:
Ms. Hyde-Smith’s victory, reported by The Associated Press, came in the final Senate race of the midterm elections and will increase the Republican majority in the chamber to 53 to 47 once the new Congress is sworn in, a net pickup of two seats.
Teetering after several rhetorical gaffes drew a harsh spotlight to her campaign, Ms. Hyde-Smith received a last-minute boost from President Trump, who appeared at two rallies with her on Monday and cautioned Mississippians that a victory for Mr. Espy would also be one for Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
The rhetorical gaffe that got the most attention was an off-hand comment about being willing to sit in the front row of a public hanging (if she were invited by one of her supporters). Hyde-Smith made the remark a couple weeks ago and eventually apologized for it. Some said it was insensitive in light of the state’s history of lynchings. It also led to a high profile stunt involving nooses and signs left on the Mississippi Capitol grounds yesterday. Those turned out to be a form of protest against Hyde-Smith, thought that wasn’t clear when the story was first reported.
Mike Espy made a concession speech saying, “she has my prayers as she goes to Washington to unite a very divided Mississippi.”
“She has my prayers as she goes to Washington to unite a very divided Mississippi,” says Mike Espy after his opponent Cindy Hyde-Smith wins Senate runoff. https://t.co/p6K0GXcPxP pic.twitter.com/5GziH7Vodn
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 28, 2018
This is obviously a win for the GOP which further expands control of the Senate. It’s also a win for President Trump who traveled to Mississippi Monday to support Hyde-Smith:
Trump: "We just want thank Cindy Hyde-Smith – you got to go out tomorrow, vote, we need her, we need her badly. Cindy?"
— The Hill (@thehill) November 27, 2018
Hyde-Smith is currently giving a victory speech. Here’s the full speech which isn’t very long. “I am your warrior,” she says at one point, referring to the values she wants to represent when she goes to Washington. But she also struck a unifying note saying, “I want everybody to know, no matter who you voted for today, I’m going to always represent every Mississippian.”