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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.

Cases: 154411

Reported Deaths: 3836
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10332104
Hinds10190199
Harrison7244111
Jackson6521124
Rankin5805103
Lee523695
Madison4964107
Forrest388286
Jones367788
Lauderdale3575147
Lafayette334952
Washington3241108
Lamar296650
Oktibbeha251362
Lowndes243864
Bolivar242984
Panola229653
Neshoba2241118
Marshall221250
Leflore207791
Monroe203978
Pontotoc202929
Lincoln194865
Sunflower192555
Warren178757
Tate177051
Union171026
Copiah167040
Pike164758
Yazoo158840
Scott157930
Itawamba156135
Alcorn154828
Pearl River154168
Coahoma151943
Simpson151953
Prentiss149531
Adams144451
Grenada142845
Leake139444
Holmes132361
Tippah128030
Covington127939
George126425
Winston124526
Hancock123640
Wayne120623
Marion118646
Attala117534
Tishomingo110842
Chickasaw109032
Newton108029
Tallahatchie97727
Clay93427
Clarke93053
Jasper84822
Stone80015
Calhoun78113
Walthall77229
Montgomery75825
Carroll74015
Lawrence73414
Smith72816
Noxubee72517
Yalobusha72328
Perry68126
Tunica62319
Greene61222
Claiborne58916
Jefferson Davis58817
Amite55814
Humphreys54719
Benton49918
Quitman4977
Webster46414
Kemper44718
Wilkinson40422
Jefferson36411
Franklin3535
Choctaw3507
Sharkey32317
Issaquena1204
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 249524

Reported Deaths: 3578
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33064500
Mobile19951362
Madison13596148
Tuscaloosa13246154
Montgomery12435236
Shelby1061677
Baldwin889098
Lee781466
Morgan686150
Etowah643966
Calhoun6430121
Marshall635355
Houston537738
DeKalb492236
Cullman451542
Limestone433345
St. Clair432555
Lauderdale422354
Elmore412964
Walker3710111
Talladega359354
Jackson329823
Colbert329642
Blount299740
Autauga278042
Franklin256434
Coffee248315
Dale236254
Chilton227438
Dallas226832
Russell22383
Covington220434
Escambia198931
Tallapoosa184391
Chambers177950
Pike159914
Clarke159819
Marion143636
Winston135123
Lawrence131636
Pickens125718
Geneva12438
Marengo123124
Bibb119617
Barbour117811
Butler117842
Randolph104921
Cherokee103424
Hale97831
Fayette92516
Washington92219
Clay92024
Henry8756
Lowndes80229
Monroe79011
Cleburne77814
Macon74522
Crenshaw72030
Bullock70219
Perry6906
Lamar6898
Conecuh68814
Wilcox64218
Sumter58622
Greene42818
Choctaw42713
Coosa3544
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