Will it be 53-47 or 52-48? The last election of 2018 will determine the Republican advantage in the Senate next year. GOP incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith is trying to fend off Democratic challenger Mike Espy in Mississippi in Tuesday's special election. As Politico reports, Hyde-Pierce has never trailed in the polls and continues to be the favorite to win, but a string of controversies—starting with her joke about a public hanging—has given Espy a bigger-than-expected shot at becoming the state's first black senator since Reconstruction. "A wounded front-runner" is how a political science professor in Jackson describes Hyde-Smith to Reuters. President Trump easily won the state in 2016, and he held two rallies there Monday for his fellow Republican.
"Her heart is good," Trump said of Hyde-Smith, per CNN. Trump called her controversial joke "sad and a little flip," but he defended her explanation that it was meant as a good-natured way of praising a supporter. "When I spoke to her—she called me—she said, 'I said something that I meant exactly very different,' and I heard an apology loud and clear," Trump said. As for Espy: "How does he fit in with Mississippi?" the president asked, as noted by CNBC. "I mean, how does he fit in?" The website FiveThirtyEight reports that a survey last week had Hyde-Smith up 54% to 44%. (Major League Baseball was among those to ask for its donation back from Hyde-Smith.)