By Howell Raines, Former executive editor, The New York Times
A Mike Espy win would prove that the anti-Trump tide that cost the GOP the House is now lifting Democratic boats in states even more conservative than Alabama.
Joe Trippi, the architect of Jones’ victory in Alabama and a consultant for the Espy campaign, discussed the race with unusual candor. “I think we’re behind but it’s very low single digits,” he told me. “I think it’s going to be 52 to 48 or can we eke it out by 23,000, the way Doug Jones did in Alabama? I definitely think it’s going to be a tight thing.” Turnout is going to be the biggest factor, but he argued that the timing of Hyde-Smith’s stumbles can only help the Espy campaign. “Her gaffes have her coming down and we’re coming up.”
As in Alabama, Trippi said, a split in the Republican ranks is helping the Democrat. Supporters of Hyde-Smith’s primary opponent, State Senator Chris McDaniels, are sulking. Moreover, the Republican nominee is a lackluster personality who does not inspire Trump-like devotion. So could Trump’s appearances the day before the election add a jolt of enthusiasm, as Lott claimed? Not necessarily. “That really helped Roy Moore in Alabama,” Trippi said dryly. “It’s an unknown. I don’t know if he can come down and get people excited about her.”