JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Senate candidates are shaking hands, touring and traveling all over the state as the election is now two weeks away. The latest NBC/ Marist Poll falls in line with what most have expected from the start, a likely runoff in the Senate special election. It shows Cindy Hyde-Smith with the advantage over Mike Espy. Hyde-Smith with 38 percent and Espy with 29. Chris McDaniel has 15 percent of the support according to this poll and Tobey Bartee bringing in two percent.
In the October 2 NBC poll, Espy had a one percentage lead on Hyde-Smith. Another change noted by Millsaps political science professor Nathan Shrader, undecided voters dropped from 27 to 15 percent since the last poll.
“They’re finally starting to pay attention, even though those things have been out there, they’re finally starting to tune into them and pay attention and that’s helping drive down the undecideds,” Shrader said.
But the poll question that jumped out to Shrader was about how folks prefer to learn about candidates' positions on issues.
“The most popular choice on that was debates," noted Shrader. "And we know we’ve had multiple opportunities for the candidates to debate.”
The answer to the follow-up question is also interesting considering the recent push for a debate.
“Whether a voter would see a candidate’s unwillingness to debate as something they might hold against them when they’re making up their mind," added Shrader. "And a majority of them said they would be more likely to hold that against a candidate than not.”
Hyde-Smith’s campaign responded to the latest numbers via statement.
“This poll shows what the campaign has known for quite awhile," said campaign communications director Melissa Scallan. "It is clear that Cindy Hyde-Smith is the only candidate who can beat Mike Espy. If Mississippians want to keep the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, they need to take this poll seriously.”
But Espy’s camp again driving home point about debate.
“After spending nearly two million dollars on ads that have gone unchallenged, the appointed senator still hasn’t convinced voters that she’ll put Mississippi first. Instead, she’s hiding on a bus to avoid debating issues like where she stands on pre-existing conditions," said Espy campaign communications director Danny Blanton. "Meanwhile, Mike Espy is talking with voters on how to strengthen our state -- by improving health care, keeping our hospitals open, and creating a better future for our young people. That’s where our campaign will continue to focus.”
While McDaniel’s team says the poll isn’t credible.
“When nearly half the voters (3/8) aren’t likely voters, the margin of error isn’t 4.7. or.even 6.1,” said McDaniel campaign communications director Tanner Watson. “This poll claims 46% of registered voters opt for Espy, a man who’s never been on ballot statewide, and against (& for) whom no cash has been expended. This Marist/NBC poll is not credible. The same pollster, a week before the 2016 election, said Trump would lose North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida & Wisconsin.”