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Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call; Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

Mississippi's special Senate election — once thought to be a foregone conclusion — has taken on a national profile and is now being actively targeted by Democrats as the race heads to a runoff next week.

The big picture: The contest between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who would be the first woman elected to represent the state in Congress, and Democrat Mike Espy, who would be Mississippi's first African-American senator since Reconstruction, has devolved into what Politico calls "a bare-knuckle brawl infused with ugly racial politics."

What happened

At a campaign event this month, Hyde-Smith told a supporter that if he invited her to a public hanging, she would be "on the front row."

  • She said in a statement that it was "an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous," Roll Call reports.
  • Espy's camp responded that her comments "have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country."
  • Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, said that "Hyde-Smith's decision to joke about 'hanging,' in a state known for its violent and terroristic history towards African Americans is sick."

She also said that suppressing college student votes might be a "good thing" because it would make it "just a little more difficult" for "liberal folks in those other schools" to vote, CNN reported.

Where things stand

Hyde-Smith, who took over for former Sen. Thad Cochran earlier this year, was nine points ahead of Espy in an October NBC News/Marist Poll.

  • It was expected that she wasn't going to receive 50% of the vote on election night because of a vote split with Republican competitor on the ballot, thus pushing the race to a runoff, per the New Yorker.
  • Since Hyde-Smith's contentious comments, Espy has worked to win over black voters and progressive white voters. Per CNN, Epsy told a group of more than 100 women over the weekend that his election would portray "a Mississippi that's moving forward, a Mississippi with a better image."

Epsy has come under fire for his own baggage during the campaign, including being indicted — and acquitted— of corruption charges in the 1990s, the New York Times reports.

What's next

The runoff is set to take place next week on Nov. 27, and the only debate in the race is set for Tuesday.

  • Showcasing Espy's momentum, prominent Senate Democrats and potential 2020 candidates like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have already visited Mississippi to campaign — and more could be coming after the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Trump will visit the state to back Hyde-Smith with two rallies on Nov. 26 — in Tupelo and Biloxi.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

COP26 head warns Glasgow summit will be "harder than Paris"

Alok Sharma, U.K. COP26 president, in Milan on Sept. 30, 2021. Photo: Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

U.K. COP26 President Alok Sharma told reporters Tuesday that the upcoming talks in Glasgow, widely viewed as the last chance to avoid some of the worst consequences of global warming, will be extremely difficult.

Driving the news: Sharma sought to temper expectations and note that the agenda features some of the toughest items that negotiators have punted on at previous summits.

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Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.