That Espy is even within shouting distance of Hyde-Smith might be considered a major victory for Democrats. Donald Trump won the state by 17 points in 2016. Espy, who won 40 percent of the vote in November’s special election, likely only qualified for Tuesday’s runoff because the Republican vote was split. Hyde-Smith, who was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant to fill Thad Cochran’s Senate seat in April, was undercut by the candidacy of Chris McDaniel, a Republican state senator who barely lost to Cochran in a 2014 Senate runoff. Few early polls predicted that Tuesday’s election would be anything more than a formality.
Espy is still not expected to win. According to FiveThirtyEight, a mid-November survey found Hyde-Smith up 11 points, although the poll was conducted by a Republican-leaning firm. But