Mississippi's 2018 US Senate Elections Are, Of Course, Completely Nuts.
Mississippi is a very, very red state. It is as Republican as they come. Donald Trump took Mississippi with 18 percent of the vote in 2016. So here's a heck of a surprise: Mississippi has an election for US Senate this fall that could conceivably go to the Democrat, and even help with a Democratic takeover of the Senate. No, really! That's because, as you may have noticed, this is one seriously weirdass political year.
As in Minnesota, which we discussed last week, Mississippi has not one but two US Senate elections this November. There's the regular election, in which incumbent Republican Roger Wicker is up for reelection to a second full term. And there's a special election to fill the rest of the term -- until 2020 -- of Thad Cochran, who retired in April due to declining health. It would be a thing of beauty if state Rep. David Baria, the Democrat running against Wicker, could somehow beat Wicker, but that's a very long shot (support him anyway!) But it's the special election for Cochran's seat that offers Democrats a really slim chance to flip a previously Republican seat -- still a long shot, but a bit more doable. And it's all thanks to a Moronic Convergence of this year's newly normal chaos.
Let's start with the two top Republicans running for the seat. You have the four-month incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith, a former state senator and Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to fill the seat when Cochran retired. Bryant made the appointment in consultation with Mtch McConnell, so be ready for her to be tarred as the "establishment" candidate, even though she's plenty far to the right herself. And then you have the genuine full-capybara wackadoody candidate, Chris McDaniel, who ran a completely insane Tea Party primary against Cochran in 2014, getting the support of Breitbart (and yes, Steve Bannon). It was so close that it went to a run-off, which Cochran won, although Team McDaniel insisted Cochran somehow cheated by getting black people to do voter fraud for him, because all black votes are by definition fraudulent. McDaniel had originally planned a GOP primary challenge against Wicker this year, but when Cochran resigned, jumped into that race instead.
McDaniel is one of your all time great fringe candidates, the sort of nice guy who happily appeared at events hosted by neo-Confederate groups that displayed a "Wanted" poster for Abraham Lincoln, the dangerous Marxist. McDaniel supporters were implicated in a truly ugly ratfucking campaign that involved a break-in at a nursing home where Cochran's wife lived, as part of a botched plan to smear Cochran as having abandoned her for a young staffer. Oh, yes, and while votes were being counted the night of the June 2014 primary, one of McDaniel's top campaign staffers also got locked inside a county courthouse, after midnight, "by accident." If any ratfucking happened there, it didn't signify, since as we note, the primary went to a run-off, won by Cochran. And then there was all that stupidity about voter fraud, which was basically invented out of nothing by award-winning journalist and alleged floor-shitter Chuck C. Johnson.
Oh, yes, and while Cochran was trying to prove his Mississippi good-ole-boy bonafides, he suggested he'd done "all kinds of indecent things with animals" when he was growing up on the farm. Oh, Mississippi.
Now, here's where the November special election gets interesting: While the regular Senate race between Wicker and Baria will have the candidates' party affiliations listed, so Rs will know who's good and who's evil, the special election is actually a nonpartisan top-two primary, aka a "jungle" primary (or perhaps in honor of Cochran, a barnyard primary). If nobody gets 50 percent on November 6, there'll be a run-off between the top two finishers November 27. And without those partisan labels on the special election ballot, there's a fair chance Democrat Mike Espy -- a former congressman and then Bill Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture -- could very well be one of the top two finishers after the first round.
That won't be easy, because Mississippi is one of the most Republican states out there. But despite a huge Republican voter registration advantage, it's also worth noting that a third of the Mississippi electorate is African-American, and likely to vote for Espy, who was the state's first African-American congressman since Reconstruction. Even better, he isn't either of those crazy R's.
We'll assume that after the 2014 fracas, not a lot of black voters feel excessively inclined toward McDaniel. Not that Hyde-Smith is likely to have a lot of appeal to that demographic, either -- Bryant picked her, in part, to have at least some legitimacy among white male conservatives who might go for McDaniel. She waves the bloody shirt on immigration, and she thinks the Confederate battle flag should remain part of Mississippi's state flag.
Then of course there's the Trump Factor. The White House actually opposed Bryant's pick of Hyde-Smith, because she had been a Democrat until she ran for state senate in 2010. Not surprisingly, McDaniel has been using that as a talking point against her. But Trump hasn't come out in favor of McDaniel yet, either, perhaps because he was backed by Bannon, at least when McDaniel was planning on going up against Wicker. If Trump jumps in before November, there's no telling how that would affect Republican votes. Hell, as happened in Alabama, even if Trump endorses Hyde-Smith, that could motivate the very base base to turn out for McDaniel.
Either way, Espy is happy to run against both R's, against Trump and, because it's freaking Mississippi, against "establishment" Dems as well. Also, too, Espy has had a whole bunch of national black Democratic figures dropping by to help, like Cory Booker. With both R's trying to paint themselves as ultra-Trumpers, Espy's also hoping to win over at least a thin slice of white moderates, should any still exist in Mississippi.
The best result Dems could hope for would be a top-two finish November by Espy and McDaniel. Early polling, back in April, by the charmingly named Mississippi-centric Y'all Politics, showed Espy losing to Hyde-Smith, but winning over McDaniel. A May poll showed Hyde-Smith and Espy as the top two, with McDaniel in third, which would be make for a more difficult run-off, but still in the realm of the possible.
But with months to go, it's still really hard to say. There are tons of undecideds, and it's hard to say whether this will be yet another primary where a lot of Rs will go for the fucking-nuts candidates and then black voters save the day in the run-off, which seems an awful lot to ask of them. While McDaniel is vile, he doesn't have any teen girls in his history like Roy Moore did. DOES HE? Gosh, we could hope maybe hope a significant chunk of white Mississipians would also not vote for the top race baiter, couldn't we? Relying on the goodwill of white voters hasn't turned out so great lately, though.
This is where we urge you to send some money to David Baria, who just might surprise everyone, because 2018 IS fucking nuts. And especially to Mike Espy, to make that long-shot -- and a Democratic recapture of the Senate -- a bit more likely. Also, a program note: Next week, Yr Doktor Zoom will be making his way for the Big Wonkette Seattle-Area Gathering, so there'll be no Senate Sunday or Shitferbrains, too bad so sad for you if you can't make it, and we will even drop our keto diet to drink beer!
Finally, since we just had the offertory, let's close out today's service with a hymn from the mandatory Nina Simone:
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[Vox / FiveThirtyEight / Slate / Politico / Y'All Politics / David Baria for Senate / Mike Espy for Senate / image: Wikimedia Commons]
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.