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Hyde-Smith (left) and Espy. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty, Wikimedia Commons

Some Republicans are worried that today's Mississippi Senate runoff could end up like last year's Alabama special election, with a scandal-plagued Republican candidate losing to a Democrat in deep red, Republican territory.

The big picture: Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has been fighting late controversies of her own making — saying she'd attend a "public hanging," among other things — just as Alabama's Roy Moore was damaged by his own late controversies (allegations of being a sexual predator). But there are also some important reasons why Hyde-Smith, unlike Moore, might survive, including the fact that President Trump and the GOP haven't kept her at arm's length the way they did with Moore.

Between the lines: The main differences that could work in Republicans' favor in Mississippi:

  • Alabama's other senator, Richard Shelby, announced he wouldn't vote for Moore, which gave permission to some GOP voters to stay home on election day. That hasn't happened in Mississippi.
  • The GOP largely abandoned Moore, but they're going all in for Hyde-Smith. Washington Republicans called on Moore to drop out of the race if the allegations were true, and the Republican National Committee pulled its money from the race until the very end, when they decided to spend for him in the final days. By contrast, two major GOP campaign groups are spending over $1 million each on ads for Hyde-Smith, per Politico.
  • Trump tweet-endorsed Moore right before the election, but he didn't hold a single rally in Alabama for him. This time, Trump held two rallies for Hyde-Smith in Mississippi the day before the election, one in Tupelo and the other in Biloxi.

Why it matters: The race isn't crucial to the balance of power in the Senate — it will only decide whether Republicans will have 52 or 53 seats. It would be a huge upset, however, if Democrat Mike Espy pulled out a victory, especially following Democrat Doug Jones' win in Alabama last year.

  • "If you couple this with what happened in Alabama, it’s a big change in the Old South," said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster whose firm is conducting surveys for Espy's campaign. "You’d have the first African American from Mississippi in the Senate since the Civil War ... and especially given her comments, it really would be finally turning the page on those old wounds."

The bottom line: Republicans still think they'll win this race. Democrats are optimistic that their base voters will turn out heavily for Espy, and they've focused on the state's African American voters, who could propel Espy to victory like they did for Jones in Alabama. But the odds are still heavily against any Democrat, given the makeup of the state's voters.

As one national Democratic operative told Axios: "We run out of our voters before they run out of theirs."

Go deeper: Democrats have out-performed in every special election over the last year

Go deeper

Biden says presidency "will be determined" by outcome of spending plans

President Biden walks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after addressing the House Democratic caucus on Thursday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden told the House Democratic caucus Thursday "my presidency will be determined" by the votes he wants in the next week on his $1.75 trillion social safety net expansion and $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.

Driving the news: Biden made the comment, according to a source in the room, as he tried to rally support for the $1.75 trillion package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acted immediately, calling for a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill later in the day.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
40 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China declines to speed emissions cuts in new UN pledge

A view of the skyscrapers in the haze in Shanghai, China, in December 2020. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Chinese leaders are sticking with a prior target to bring the country's carbon emissions to a peak before 2030, according to documents filed with the United Nations Thursday under the Paris climate agreement.

Why it matters: The new documents come just days ahead of the UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow. China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its emissions path is key to whether the temperature-limiting goals of the Paris agreement can remain within reach.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden lays out $1.75 trillion "framework" before Europe departure

President Biden in Kearny, N.J., on Oct. 25. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden announced Thursday a "framework" for $1.75 trillion in social program and climate change spending after failing in prior efforts to win over his fellow Democrats on a much broader and costlier package.

Why it matters: Biden is gambling that by proclaiming the broad contours of the proposal, which he immediately began selling in a meeting with House Democrats before jetting off to Europe, progressives will vote for his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan if and when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the floor.