Editor’s note: We asked several Mississippi politicos, two months from Election Day, to share their thoughts on the 2020 U.S. Senate race between Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy. Click here to return to the list of expert opinions.

Henry Barbour, longtime Republican strategist and Mississippi Republican national committeeman, drew parallels between the Cindy Hyde-Smith and Joe Biden campaigns.

On the national level, the Biden campaign appears to be keeping a low profile, riding a perceived lead, and the pandemic is robbing Trump of the large crowds and rallies his campaign feeds on.

“I definitely think the school of thought with Biden is the same thing going on in Cindy Hyde-Smith world: Let’s lay low, we have a lead,” Barbour said. “That’s a tried and true strategy. If you’re winning, keep your head down. That’s the same reason that Thad Cochran didn’t debate Chris McDaniel in 2014. Why do it? Don’t give your opponent that platform.”

A recent Espy internal poll had Black turnout at 35% — a really high number, at least five points high — with the Hyde-Smith lead likely to be more like 10 points, Barbour said.

“I tend to think that Trump voters are more likely to turn out in Mississippi than the folks wanting to beat Trump,” Barbour said. “I think that Cindy Hyde-Smith has an advantage there that she’ll get to ride with a big presidential turnout.”

The Mississippi flag issue was whether or not to keep old flag — that’s been decided, so it’s not likely to be a big driver of turnout, Barbour said.

“I think this will be a big turnout because it’s a referendum on Donald Trump and how the country is doing. I think that is going to help Cindy Hyde-Smith. George Floyd, the protests, that will help Mike Espy, but I think Democratic voters in Mississippi know that Donald Trump will win Mississippi, so it’s a little hard to get low-propensity voters to show up on the Democratic side.”

Click here to return to the list of expert opinions.

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.