Rogelio V. Solis | AP
Democrat Mike Espy pledges to work across party lines, during a brief speech in Jackson, Miss., Friday, July 20, 2018.
A Senate special election in red Mississippi could head to a runoff in late November as Democrat Mike Espy pushes to upset Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, according to a new poll.
In the Nov. 6 contest, 38 percent of likely voters prefer Hyde-Smith, 29 percent choose Espy and 15 percent pick GOP state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday found. Another 15 percent of likely voters are undecided, while nonpartisan candidate Tobey Bartee takes 2 percent of support.
If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, it would send the contest to a Nov. 27 runoff. That potential race favors Hyde-Smith as she consolidates Republican voters, according to the survey. She garners 50 percent of support among likely voters, Espy gets 36 percent and another 13 percent are undecided.
Espy appears to have a better chance if McDaniel finds his way into a runoff. In a potential matchup between the two men, the Democrat has a 7 percentage point edge, according to the survey.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to fill the Senate seat after longtime GOP Sen. Thad Cochran retired earlier this year due to health issues. Espy, a former U.S. Agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton, gives Democrats one of their only Senate seat pickup opportunities this year as the party faces a brutal midterm map. However, he faces a daunting path to winning in a state that President Donald Trump won easily in 2016, and where he still enjoys a strong approval rating.