A new poll demonstrates that US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican incumbent who earns approval from less than half of her Mississippi constituents, is “very vulnerable in a re-election,” her likely Democratic opponent’s campaign said in a press statement on January 23. That claim, from Mike Espy for US Senate Campaign Manager Joe O’Hern, comes on the heels of a Millsaps College/Chism Strategies survey that found that, among Mississippi voters, just under 36% say they will “definitely” vote to re-elect her in November.
Still, that number is higher than the 29% who say they “definitely” plan to vote for Espy, giving Hyde-Smith a 7-point lead among those who say they have already decided. The Espy campaign sees some hope, though; the survey found that independents back him by 38% to 29%.
“In a clear sign of Mike Espy’s unique ability to appeal to a broad audience in Mississippi, he was leading Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith among self-identified independents in the Millsaps poll by 9%,” O’Hern said.
But when people who say they will “probably” vote for Espy or Hyde-Smith are included, Hyde-Smith leads Espy 45% to 36%—a nine point gap.
The Espy campaign said they are encouraged by the single digit deficit, though.
“Public polling leading into the 2018 special election almost always had Mike Espy trailing Senator Hyde-Smith by double digits. For Mike Espy to start this race within single digits is a clear sign that this race will be very competitive in 2020,” said O’Hern.
Espy’s campaign manager also noted that unlike the special election campaign in 2018 (which began unexpectedly in March 2018 following former Senator Thad Cochran’s decision to step down due to failing health), Espy is beginning the 2020 campaign with plenty of preparation and a plan.
“Unlike the 2018 campaign, Mike starts this campaign with the infrastructure and support to build off of both locally and nationally,” O’Hern said.
Espy is running as a candidate who supports expanding Medicaid in the remaining holdout states, like Mississippi, and as a pro-abortion rights Democrat, though he considers himself “personally pro-life.” In the past, Mississippi Democrats conventionally thought they had to oppose abortion rights in order to remain viable. Espy bucked that conventional wisdom in 2018, though, and came closer to winning a US Senate seat than any Democrat since the 1980s.