Are Republicans in danger of fumbling away another Senate seat in the Deep South?

by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger

President Trump is headed to Mississippi next week to campaign for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) a day before her runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy, a former U.S. Agriculture secretary.

The race is in a runoff because neither candidate hit the 50 percent mark on Nov. 6, although Hyde-Smith lost a significant percentage of Republican votes to Chris McDaniel, who will not be on the ballot in the next go round.

The final tally from the first vote was Hyde-Smith 42 percent, Espy 41 percent and McDaniel 17 percent. Trump won Mississippi by nearly 18 points in 2016.

Still, Hyde-Smith has stumbled badly in recent weeks with some ill-timed and controversial remarks, underscored by her puzzling statement that she’d be “on the front row” if a supporter invited her to a “public hanging.”

Mississippi has a long and dark history of lynchings and the remarks were seen as insensitive and tone deaf, particularly since Espy is running to be the first black senator in the state since Reconstruction.

There is no polling for the one-on-one match-up between the two, but Trump’s late appearance is another signal that Hyde-Smith needs help closing the deal in a deep red state.

If Hyde-Smith can pull it out, it would give Republicans a 53-47 majority in the Senate next year, up from 51-49 now.

That’s because the Florida Senate race was finally settled in favor of Gov. Rick Scott (R) over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) following an ugly and dramatic recount in the Sunshine State.

The Sun Sentinel: Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes resigns.


Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda C. Snipes waves goodbye to the media, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, at the Broward Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill. Broward County reported their recount results with 52 minutes to spare Sunday. (Joe Cavaretta / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Scott triumphed by just over 10,000 votes, a margin of 0.12 percent. He has now won three razor-tight statewide elections in the perennial swing state.

Two other hotly contested governor’s races were settled this weekend, both in favor of the GOP candidate.

In Florida, former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) will replace Scott as governor, edging past Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) at the end of a recount.

Republicans and Democrats agree voters have not seen the last of Gillum on the national political stage.

And in Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams has conceded the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp, although Democrats are bitter over the contest and accusing Kemp, the former Georgia secretary of state, of voter suppression.

With most of the midterm races settled, the battle now shifts to 2020, when Trump says he will seek reelection against the backdrop of an electoral map that has changed significantly in the two years since he was elected.

Democrats will need to do better in Florida and Ohio to take back the White House after losing both the Senate and governor’s races in the Sunshine State and a winnable governor’s race in the Buckeye State.

HuffPost: Electoral map still favors Trump.

The Hill: Dems wonder if Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) could be their magic man.

But there are a lot of new bright spots on the map for Democrats, too.

Some analysts believe the Sunbelt is in play for 2020 after Democrats won key races this year in Arizona and Nevada.

The Hill: Dem gains put Sunbelt in focus for 2020.

Dan Balz: What has Trump learned from defeats in the House that weaken the GOP in key parts of the country?

Is 2020 the year Texas will be competitive for Democrats, after years of dashed hopes? Hillary Clinton’s team talked big about turning Texas blue in 2016 but didn’t come close. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), meanwhile, nearly pulled off a historic upset over Sen. Ted Cruz (R).

Is that a candidate-specific phenomenon or have the demographics shifted away from the GOP in the traditionally red state?

The Hill: Rise of big cities may push Texas to swing state territory in 2020.

The Washington Post: Trump further divides political map for 2020.

Trump will also be looking to break new ground, possibly with an eye on Minnesota, where he and Vice President Pence have campaigned several times already this year.

The Minnesota Star Tribune: Will Minnesota be a toss-up in 2020?

Of course, Republicans are still picking up the pieces after a disastrous election cycle in the House, where they lost the majority after Democrats flipped about three-dozen seats.

The latest: Democrat Gil Cisneros has officially knocked off Republican Young Kim to capture a GOP-held House seat in Southern California (The Associated Press).

The final tally: Democrats flipped six GOP-held seats in California, including four in Orange County, which was once a GOP-stronghold in the southern part of the state (The New York Times).

Over the weekend, Trump took aim at one prominent California Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, who is likely to be the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The misspelling was telling…

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