The GOP scored another midterm Senate win as voters in ruby-red Mississippi elected Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith over Democrat challenger Mike Espy to the United States Senate.
While the race was closer than it should have been, there are no moral victories in politics -- a win is a win. The outcome is significant for two reasons. First, Senator Hyde-Smith becomes the first woman elected to the Senate in Mississippi and her win strengthens the GOP majority in the Senate to 53-47.
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For a state deeply seeded in racial division, this Senate run-off was not about courting white or black voters, it was about turning out red or blue ones. In this conservative Southern state, voters opted for the conservative candidate over the Democrat challenger who campaigned as an independent voice for Mississippi.
After declaring victory, Senator Hyde-Smith assured voters that no matter who they voted for, she's "gonna always represent every Mississippian."
In a classy concession speech, Espy extended his prayers to Hyde-Smith "as she goes to Washington to unite a fully divided Mississippi."
President Donald Trump won Mississippi in 2016 over Hillary Clinton by a nearly 18-point margin.
The president is popular there; his policies are popular there. For that reason, Hyde-Smith campaigned as though she and Trump are as close as two coats of red paint and fully supported the Trump agenda. The President traveled to Mississippi Monday to rally the base and tout Hyde-Smith's conservative record.
Hyde-Smith campaigned on the issues that appeal to Mississippians: being pro-life, supporting our military, appointing conservatives to the Supreme Court and reigning in federal bureaucracy.
But she quickly went from running on offense to being on defense when a video surfaced of her telling supporters earlier this month that she would be "on the front row" if one of her supporters invited her "to a public hanging."
Hyde-Smith apologized to "anyone that was offended" by her comments. It was not a full-throated apology, but the trust and respect she has built up over her nearly two decades in public service went a long way towards helping her weather the political storm. Black Republican Charlie Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, defended Hyde-Smith, adding he "don't give a damn what other people think."
Espy is a former congressman who also served as Agriculture Secretary under President Bill Clinton. He campaigned as an Independent, yet as President Trump reminded voters, Espy supports the "Democrat agenda of socialism and open borders."
As a member of Congress, Espy voted with the Democratic Party 91% of the time and told supporters he would caucus with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Perhaps many voters took note of neighboring Senator Doug Jones, who campaigned for Espy. The Alabama Democrat ran against Republican Roy Moore who was accused of sexual misconduct with minors. Jones won in December of 2017, in large part by claiming he would serve as a conservative. However, since taking office Senator Jones has been a reliable vote for the Democratic agenda, including his vote against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Voters in Mississippi made it clear they support the McConnell direction of this country, not the Schumer direction. They support the conservative political record of Hyde-Smith under President Trump's leadership.
Like it or not, the expected outcome occurred in Mississippi, giving the GOP a valuable increased margin needed to put further pressure on Democrats.