It’s coming down to the wire. In little more than a month Mississippi will find out who will prevail in Round One of the US Senate special election. And I stress “Round One” for a reason.
With four candidates in the race, and a majority vote needed to win outright on November 6, the race is certain to head to a three-week runoff between the top two candidates in a final vote on November 27. The winner then heads to the US Senate to finish out the unexpired term of Thad Cochran.
The four candidates are Republicans Cindy Hyde-Smith and Chris McDaniel, and Democrats Mike Espy and Tobey Bartee.
A recent NBC/Survey Monkey poll has Espy in the lead with 25 percent, Hyde-Smith with 24, McDaniel at 19, and Bartee at 4.
In a new poll by the Remember Mississippi PAC, McDaniel is in the lead with 34 percent, Hyde-Smith at 24, Espy at 19, and Bartee at 15.
Many political observers believe that much of the Democratic vote will eventually coalesce around Espy and he will punch one of the tickets to the runoff. The question, then, is who will grab the second spot: McDaniel or Hyde-Smith?
With one poll showing McDaniel in the lead and another showing him down, how do we know which is more accurate? Given the behavior of the Hyde-Smith campaign, it’s probably safe to say that McDaniel is ahead, and that’s because the Hyde-Smith campaign still waging all-out war against McDaniel. Her radio and tv spots flood the airways, campaign minions are constantly sniping at McDaniel on every available forum with vile and nasty invective, and, at the recent Trump rally, McDaniel supporters were told to turn their Chris McDaniel t-shirts inside out. These are not the tactics of a campaign with a solid lead, just as we saw with Cochran in 2014.
The reason is simple: The Establishment knows, and the Remember Mississippi PAC poll clearly shows, that McDaniel will easily beat Espy in a runoff but the path is not as clear for Hyde-Smith. Why? Because of voter enthusiasm and potential turnout.
The three-week runoff will come down to Politics 101: Turnout wins races, and voter enthusiasm and a solid ground game drives turnout. And Chris McDaniel’s supporters are the most enthusiastic in the state of Mississippi, and among the most motivated anywhere in the country. Not only is 2014 a major motivator, but his supporters are among the most conservative, and true conservatives are the ones most upset with the DC Swamp and the most eager to get to the voting booth in November.
Even the Clarion Ledger’s Geoff Pender sees this very clearly, accusing the pundits of greatly underestimating McDaniel and his base of support, a vast bloc of voters filled with “passion and fervor,” who “chew nails and spit tacks,” he recently wrote. Having such fervent support “is an advantage” in a special, mid-term election. And “getting voters to turn out will be the name of the game.”
Pender also made note of something else McDaniel has on his three opponents, and that is “the amount of work McDaniel puts into his field game. He’s one of the hardest campaigning Mississippi politicians to ever kiss a baby or shake a hand. McDaniel will be out-spent, but he won’t be outworked.”
But Cindy Hyde-Smith has none of these advantages. She has no ground game to speak of, her social media presence is negligible, she’s shown herself to be a very lazy campaigner, and her supporters are not nearly as energetic. All the Establishment and Hyde-Smith can really boast of is money, but in a runoff that is not nearly as important.
So, there is reason for her to worry. Will her supporters be as motivated to vote a few days after Thanksgiving? Not likely, so this is where McDaniel leads the pack by a country mile – his hard work, his enthusiastic base, and his vast ground game and organization. This makes McDaniel the one candidate who can defeat Mike Espy. His motivated band of nail chewers will show up in mass on November 27.
And that’s why the Establishment is so bent on stopping him and stopping him now. They know if he wins a spot in the runoff, he will win the seat on November 27. You can count on that!