A Recap Of The 2020 Mississippi Senate Race

December 20, 2020

In the final tally, Espy received 44.1% of the vote statewide, compared to 41.1% for Biden. Espy received over 578,000 votes, the highest number ever received by a Democrat in a federal election in Mississippi’s history.

In precincts that are 80% or more white, turnout is up 15% from 2016. While Espy improved on his 2018 runoff margin by 1 point in rural white precincts and 2 points in urban/small town white precincts, the increase in turnout netted Cindy Hyde-Smith nearly 100,000 more votes in these precincts than she had received there in 2018.

In 80%+ Black precincts, turnout was down a point from 2016. In 95%+ Black precincts turnout was down by three points and Espy’s vote share dropped 1.2% from the 2018 runoff. In total, he only netted an additional 23,244 votes compared to the 2018 runoff in 80%+ Black precincts.

Espy overperformed Biden by three points overall. He outperformed Biden by three points in 80%+ white precincts and by one point in 80%+ Black precincts.
Espy improved significantly on President Obama’s margins in suburban areas and counties with highly-educated populations, notably Desoto (+8%), Lamar (+7%), Rankin (+5%), Lafayette (+5%), and Oktibbeha (+5%). In terms of raw votes, he got 48% more votes in Lamar than Obama did in 2012, 44% more in Desoto and Hancock, and 36% more in George and Rankin. At the same time, turnout in the Delta shrunk by 13% from 2012, with Espy receiving 11,000 fewer votes than Obama.

Espy’s biggest improvements over his 2018 runoff performance were in many of the state’s whitest counties, including Neshoba (+1.7%), Itawamba (+1.6%), George (+1.5%), and Lamar (+1.5%)
Espy’s margin slipped most in rural, diverse counties like Jasper (-4.8%), Panola (-4.2%), Marshall (-4.0%), and Walthall (-3.9%). In the 2018 runoff, white turnout fell while Black turnout rose, so diverse counties saw Espy overperform normal Democratic vote share significantly. In this election, we saw Black turnout hold steady relative to 2016, while white turnout exploded, so Espy’s margin shrank even as he did better with white voters.

Ultimately, the final conclusion is

Espy’s vote share among African-Americans mostly held steady,
Espy’s vote share among white voters increased by two points,

Rather than an electorate that was 35%-36% African-American, as he got in the 2018 runoff, turnout surges in majority white areas and dropoff in majority African-American areas probably led to an environment where Black voters only made up about 30% of the vote.

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