Mississippi Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy continues to find time to talk to out-of-state media and podcasters, trying all he can to raise national interest in a race here in the Magnolia State that most political observers have essentially written off as “Safe Republican” in favor of incumbent U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.
In an interview with Mark Thompson (aka Matsimela Mapfumo, aka ministter) on a podcast based out of New York with black advocates as their target audience, Espy says everyone overlooks Mississippi as it is traditionally a deep red state.
“Everyone overlooks Mississippi because it’s Mississippi,” the Democrat candidate said. “They call us that we are not a battleground state. Well, we are a battleground state because we have the numbers to win.”
By “everyone,” Espy is referring to national Democrats and Democrat donors. Even former President Barack Obama appeared this week not to find the race in Mississippi all that compelling as he did not include Espy on his list of initial endorsements in the 2020 election cycle.
“They say MS is not a battleground state. WE ARE!”
Are you listening @dscc?
— #MakeItPlain #MIP????️ #GetWoke⏰ #GetWokeAndVote????️ (@MakeItPlain) August 5, 2020
Nonetheless, Espy says the task at hand for his campaign is getting the black vote out while also increasing his share of the white vote as compared to his run in 2018.
“We need the busses. We need the door knockers with PPE. We need the ability to digital peer to peer text. We got to do all of that,” Espy said. “We got to get all the Black Lives Matter movement young folks to encourage their peers to vote. I believe were are able to do this.”
Espy’s focus on race has become a central component of his campaign in recent weeks. His campaign released an ad in late July attempting to re-cast the Senate race through the lens of race, taking advantage of the national narrative being advanced by both Black Lives Matter activists and national Democrats.
Espy said on the New York podcast that his campaign needs 3% more black votes from his 2018 campaign where he drew 32%. He believes that is possible.
The Democrat candidate also said he received more white votes two years ago than any Democrat since John Stennis in the 1980s when he faced the same General Election opponent in Hyde-Smith, adding he only needs 4% more white votes to win.
“All I need is four more percent white vote. I already got 18. Now I need 22? And on black vote, well, it’s here,” Espy said.
Espy is laying his hopes of increased white vote in his favor on the recent calls to change the Mississippi state flag, believing those same persons who advocated for the removal of the Confederate emblem on the flag will find it easier now to rally around him.
“They [white votes] are in the suburbs. They are in the Gulf Coast,” Espy said. “They have already made their wishes known by asking the Legislature to take down that flag. They are rallying now to our campaign and I know that they are here. The numbers are here for me to win in 90 days.”
Polling does not indicate Espy’s assumptions to be true. In fact, polling performed by Y’all Politics, as well as by left-leaning pollsters, show Espy far behind his Republican opponent in both favorability and electability. He lost to Hyde-Smith 54% to 46% in the 2018 head-to-head race.
With President Donald Trump still popular among the vast majority of Mississippians and with the presidential race being at the top of the ballot this cycle, Hyde-Smith’s margin of victory could increase come November, making it even more challenging for Espy.