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Polls show Hyde-Smith in the lead, runoff likely

As Nov. 6 approaches, it looks more likely that Brookhaven’s Cindy Hyde-Smith will hang on to her seat in the U.S. Senate. But she likely won’t avoid a runoff, if the polls are to be believed.

An NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday shows the special election has a strong chance of going to a Nov. 27 runoff, The Associated Press reported. The poll showed Republican Hyde-Smith with support from 38 percent of likely voters, Democratic challenger Mike Espy with 29 percent, Republican Chris McDaniel with 15 percent and Tobey Bartee with 2 percent. Fifteen percent said they’re undecided.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the race heads to a runoff. The poll showed that in a hypothetical runoff, Hyde-Smith leads Espy 50 percent to 36 percent among likely voters, with 13 percent undecided.

If the polls are to be believed, Hyde-Smith will come out ahead Nov. 6 and then again in the Nov. 27 runoff. But polls are not always accurate. Donald Trump’s election as president is proof of that.

It’s why the candidates are making hard pushes in the final days to reach voters. Hyde-Smith, Espy and McDaniel have released new TV ads with the hopes of boosting their numbers.

The best way to reach voters, however, may be an old-fashioned debate. A poll released Tuesday shows that 60 percent of Mississippians would unfavorably view a candidate who refused to debate while 11 percent would view the non-debating candidate more favorably and 22 percent said it would make no difference for them, Mississippi Today reported.

Hyde-Smith has refused to debate the other candidates, and instead has embarked on a campaign bus tour of the state. She is running an incumbent’s campaign, but there is the possibility she has not been in office long enough for that type of campaign to be the most effective.

A debate would give more Mississippians the chance to hear from the candidates, and it’s not too late to organize one. Espy has said he would debate Hyde-Smith at a moment’s notice.

Hyde-Smith has said she fears giving her opponents free publicity at a debate. And given the recent positive polling numbers, she has even less incentive to debate them. She is betting an incumbent’s campaign is the right move. If polls are to be believed, she may be right.