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Trump campaigns for controversial candidate

During a campaign rally, President Trump showed his support for Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, whose comments referencing a "public hanging" along with a series of other controversies put her in the spotlight.

Posted: Nov 28, 2018 4:38 AM
Updated: Nov 28, 2018 5:09 AM

Mississippi voters will decide on Tuesday between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy in the last Senate race to be decided in 2018.

Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

Here's what to watch:

The balance of power

The result will finalize the balance of power in the US Senate. As it stands, Republicans will hold 52 seats next year, and Democrats will have 47. A win for the GOP in Mississippi would further pad the party's majority in the Senate, even as Democrats have taken a solid majority in the House.

Contest dominated by racial controversies

Hyde-Smith has spent the days leading up to Tuesday's election mired in controversy that evoked the state's dark history of racism and slavery.

It began when video emerged online of her telling supporters earlier this month that she'd be "on the front row" if one of her supporters "invited me to a public hanging." She later called the comments an "exaggerated expression of regard," but her use of the phrase "public hanging" brought memories of Mississippi's history of lynchings to the forefront and put the contest under the national microscope.

Those comments prompted deeper dives into her history.

The same progressive blogger who published the video of her using the phrase "public hanging" later published one in which Hyde-Smith told a small group at Mississippi State University that suppressing the votes of students at other colleges was "a great thing." Her campaign said it was a joke, but that explanation backfired when the black student seen laughing in a picture from the event her campaign posted on Twitter responded that Hyde-Smith's campaign was using him as a prop.

On Friday, the Jackson Free Press reported that Hyde-Smith had attended a private high school that was founded in 1970 so that white parents could avoid attempts to integrate public schools. Hyde-Smith's daughter later attended a similar private school established around the same time, according to the Free Press. The senator's campaign responded to the report by attacking the "liberal media."

Over the weekend, CNN reported that Hyde-Smith once promoted a measure that praised a Confederate soldier's effort to "defend his homeland" and had pushed a revisionist view of the Civil War.

In photos posted to her Facebook account in 2014, Hyde-Smith was pictured posing with Confederate artifacts during a visit to Beauvoir, the home and library of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The caption on the post read, "Mississippi history at its best!"

Espy's campaign hammered Hyde-Smith with television ads that cast her as an embarrassment to a state that has attempted to overcome its history of slavery and racism.

"We've worked hard to overcome the stereotypes that hurt our economy and cost us jobs. Her words should not reflect Mississippi's values, either," a narrator said in one ad. The ad also called Hyde-Smith "so embarrassing, she'd be a disaster for Mississippi."

Several companies that had donated to Hyde-Smith's campaign, including Walmart, publicly withdrew their support for the senator over the "public hanging" comment.

Can a Democrat win in red Mississippi?

Democrats hope Hyde-Smith's comments will lead to a surge in black turnout and propel them to victory. However, even if black voters, who make up nearly 40% of the state's electorate, come out in full force, Espy would still have to outperform his party's history with whites to have a chance of winning.

The state is polarized along racial lines, with most white voters backing Republicans and nearly all black voters supporting Democrats.

Democrats have to overcome partisan trends in the deeply red state. Earlier this month, when multiple candidates in both parties were on the ballot, Hyde-Smith and conservative Chris McDaniel combined for 58% of the vote, while Espy and Democrat Tobey Bartee got 42%.

Trump's visits to Mississippi on Monday night were also seen as bid to rally the Republican base to vote in an election taking place two days after the Thanksgiving weekend.

For Democrats, the best-case scenario is similar to how Democratic Sen. Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama a year ago: a narrow victory fueled by massive turnout from black voters.

But Mississippi is, in some ways, more challenging than Alabama. Moore faced allegations that, as an adult, he had sought sexual relationships with teenage girls, which Moore denied.

And the state is more rural than its eastern neighbor. Like Alabama, Mississippi hasn't voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Trump won Mississippi by 18 percentage points in 2016.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33591

Reported Deaths: 1204
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds264246
DeSoto176718
Madison135536
Jones115949
Neshoba101673
Harrison100312
Rankin99915
Lauderdale93781
Forrest92743
Scott78515
Jackson70417
Copiah62715
Washington62610
Leake59820
Lee57521
Holmes57041
Oktibbeha55728
Wayne55116
Warren54020
Yazoo5336
Grenada5227
Lowndes51513
Leflore50756
Lamar5007
Lincoln49234
Pike46617
Sunflower4368
Monroe43135
Lafayette4194
Covington3965
Panola3926
Bolivar37018
Attala36523
Simpson3603
Newton35210
Adams33218
Tate31912
Pontotoc3166
Marion30812
Chickasaw29119
Claiborne28910
Winston28210
Noxubee2738
Pearl River26932
Jasper2666
Marshall2643
Clay25111
Smith23412
Union23311
Coahoma2136
Clarke21125
Walthall2087
Lawrence1892
Yalobusha1838
Kemper17914
Carroll17111
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1564
Montgomery1432
Calhoun1425
Tippah14211
Itawamba1408
Hancock13413
Webster12811
Tunica1153
Jefferson1143
Jefferson Davis1144
Prentiss1113
Greene1089
Amite1043
George943
Wilkinson949
Tishomingo911
Quitman891
Alcorn762
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone722
Franklin472
Benton420
Sharkey400
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
Crenshaw1253
Washington1217
Lawrence1130
Cherokee1117
Geneva860
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa601
Cleburne391
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