Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith appeared poised for an easy runoff against her Democratic challenger after the first round of voting in Mississippi's special election earlier this month.
But after a series of high-profile controversies, Hyde-Smith - who was appointed in March to fill the Senate seat vacated by Thad Cochran - is locked in a contentious fight with Democrat Mike Espy in what has become the most competitive Senate race the state has seen in decades.
The incumbent remains the favorite in this deep-red state that President Trump, who is stumping for Hyde-Smith in back-to-back rallies Monday evening, won by 18 points in 2016. With the runoff set for Tuesday, most analysts and political operatives on both sides of the aisle are predicting that Hyde-Smith will squeak out a win.
Fox News Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Radio's Guy Benson and Marie Harf to discuss the runoff in Mississippi.
On the runoff in Mississippi: Mississippi is not elastic. Mississippi is a 60-40 state. Almost all of the black people are Democrats. Almost all of the white people are Republicans and it's a 60% white state. That's just how it goes. What Mike Espy would need in order to win would be to totally change the electorate. (3:59)
On the accusations that Cindy Hyde-Smith is racist: Her ducking behind that statement, that first press conference she had was dyer. It was terrible. There's three issues that I'm aware of. There's one where she said that she would attend a public hanging, which is not what you say in a state with a heinous history of lynching. Then they followed up and the tracker got the video of her, she said a joke, about suppressing voter turnout on college campuses where there;'s a bunch of liberal voters. Again, not funny. The third thing is now the controversy that she attended an academy. Now here's what I think people don't get. People in Mississippi know about this. This is not like a shocking revelation for people in Mississippi. (7:20)
On it not being the best match-up in Mississippi: Mike Esby's a good politician. Mike Esby's a good candidate and the other thing that Mike Esby has going for him is that he served I think six terms or six years as a congressman from Mississippi. He has the trust of a lot of white voters in Mississippi. People are aware that he is not a radical. What he is trying to do is walk a very fine line here. He's got to get crazy black turnout, crazy meaning huge, enormous black turnout. They got to come out all over the state, especially in metro Jackson, to storm the polls and put him over the top. He's got to do it in a way where he does not do what Stacy Abrams did in Georgia and make himself sound militant because if he sounds militant he will petrify white suburbanites. (11:11)