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Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith picked for U.S. Senate vacancy

Selection sets up contentious special election battle with Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel

BROOKHAVEN, Mississippi (CFP) — State Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith has been picked to fill Mississippi’s vacant seat in the U.S. Senate, marking the first time the Magnolia State has ever sent a woman to Congress.

Cindy Hyde-Smith unveiled as senator (From WJTV)

The question now is whether Hyde-Smith, a former Democratic state legislator who switched parties in 2010, can keep the seat permanently in a November special election that is likely to become a bruising battle for conservative votes against State Senator Chris McDaniel.

Governor Phil Bryant announced his selection of Hyde-Smith on March 21 in her hometown of Brookhaven.

“I pledge to you to serve all of our citizens with dignity, honor and respect,” she said in a speech where she emphasized her conservative positions against abortion and in favor of gun rights. “I’ve been a conservative all my life, and I’m very proud of my conservative record.”

She also noted that “this history of this moment is not lost on me.”

“I hope I can inspire young people to work hard to achieve their goals,” she said.

However, Bryant’s decision to pick Hyde-Smith came in for blistering criticism from McDaniel, whose supporters had been lobbying Bryant to appoint him to the seat created by the retirement of Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran.

“I was troubled to learn that Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant dutifully followed the orders of the Washington establishment’s Mitch McConnell,” McDaniel said in a statement. “Knowing the establishment’s opposition to conservatives, it was not at all surprising that they would choose a former Democrat.”

But in his introduction of Hyde-Smith, Bryant brushed aside suggestions that he was doing the bidding of Senate Republican leaders in picking Hyde-Smith.

“This decision is mine and mine alone,” he said. “But after it has been made, we need all Mississippians to stand with us if we are to be victorious.”

Hyde-Smith, 58, who operates a cattle farm with her husband, served in the state Senate as a Democrat from 2000 to 2010 and as a Republican from 2010 to 2012, when she left the Senate to run for agriculture commissioner. She won that race and was reelected with 61 percent of the vote in 2015.

In November, Hyde-Smith will run in an all-party special election against McDaniel and Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman who served as federal agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration. If no candidate gains a majority, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff.

McDaniel, who nearly toppled Cochran in a 2014 primary, had originally filed to run against the state’s other GOP senator, Roger Wicker. But after Cochran announced his retirement, McDaniel changed course and decided to run for the open seat instead.

His decision to switch races led to a war of words with Bryant, who accused McDaniel of being “opportunistic” and made it clear that he would not only not appoint him to the vacant seat but would oppose his candidacy in the special election.

Bryant’s reaction to McDaniel’s candidacy shows that hard feelings have lingered from from the 2014 primary.

During that campaign, a McDaniel supporter, Clayton Kelly, sneaked into a nursing home to photograph Cochran’s wife, who was suffering from dementia, in order to collect material for a political video alleging that Cochran was involved in an extramarital affair. McDaniel denied any involvement in the scheme; Kelly later went to jail.

McDaniel has been a harsh critic of the Republican establishment, including Cochran, Wicker, and, especially, McConnell, the Senate majority leader whom he accused of meddling in Mississippi ‘s Senate races.

Though Hyde-Smith pronounced herself a supporter of President Trump in her statement accepting Bryant’s appointment, Politico reported that the White House opposed the governor’s decision because of fears that Hyde-Smith won’t carry the race in November.

However, she will be running not only with the support of Bryant but also with deep roots in the agriculture community, an important constituency in Mississippi.

Chris McDaniel switches to open U.S. Senate race in Mississippi

Decision sets off feud with Governor Phil Bryant, who tells McDaniel that Senate “is not the business for you”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

JACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel has decided to end his primary challenge to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and instead run for a vacancy created by the resignation of Mississippi’s other senator, Thad Cochran.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

But McDaniel’s switch, and a lobbying campaign by his supporters to persuade Governor Phil Bryant to pick McDaniel as Cochran’s temporary replacement until the November election, has led to a war of words between McDaniel and the governor, who has made it clear he will do whatever it takes to keep McDaniel out of the Senate.

“This opportunistic behavior is a sad commentary for a young man who once had great potential,” Bryant said in a March 15 statement released after McDaniel announced he was changing races.

In a statement announcing the switch, McDaniel said he want Republicans “to unite around my candidacy and avoid another contentious contest among GOP members that would only improve the Democrats’ chances of winning the open seat.”

“If we unite the party now and consolidate our resources, we can guarantee Donald Trump will have a fighter who will stand with him,” he said.

Members of the Mississippi Tea Party came to the Capitol in Jackson on March 14 to lobby Bryant to appoint McDaniel to the seat, which would clear the way for him to win the post permanently in November.

However, the governor made it clear that won’t happen, sending a blunt message to McDaniel in an interview with the Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “This is not the business for you.”

Bryant’s reaction to McDaniel’s candidacy shows that hard feelings have lingered from a bruising 2014 Senate primary in which McDaniel nearly ousted Cochran, a fixture in state politics for more than four decades.

During that campaign, a McDaniel supporter, Clayton Kelly, sneaked into a nursing home to photograph Cochran’s wife, who was suffering from dementia, in order to collect material for a political video alleging that Cochran was involved in an extramarital affair. McDaniel denied any involvement in the scheme; Kelly later went to jail.

McDaniel has been a harsh critic of the Republican establishment, including Cochran, Wicker, and, especially, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he accused of meddling in the Mississippi Senate races.

“Mitch McConnell wants to hand-pick our next senator. I understand why. It’s because they know that I won’t be answering to them, I’ll be answering to the voters of Mississippi and putting Mississippi first,” he said in a statement.

But Bryant told the Clarion-Ledger that Cochran’s charge that McConnell was trying to dictate the Senate appointment was “the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Bryant will appoint a temporary replacement for Cochran who will serve until a new senator is elected in a special election in November to fill the final two years of Cochran’s term. The governor is expected to pick someone who will contest the seat.

In the special election, candidates from all parties will run in the same race, with the top two finishers competing in a runoff in no one wins a majority in the first round.

Former Secretary Mike Espy

Complicating matters for the Republicans is the candidacy of former U.S. Rep. Mike Espy, a Democrat who served as secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration.

If the Republican field is divided between McDaniel and Bryant’s pick for the vacancy, Espy — who became the first African American to represent Mississippi in Congress since Reconstruction when he was elected in 1986 — could top the first round of voting.

African Americans make up 37 percent of the state’s voting age population. No Democrat has won a Senate seat in Mississippi since 1982.

Cochran, 80, resigned because of ill health. He has served in Congress since 1972.

Mississippi U.S. Senator Thad Cochran will resign April 1

Ill health forces Mississippi’s senior senator from office after nearly 46 years on Capitol Hill

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Senator Thad Cochran will resign from the Senate effective April 1 for health reasons, triggering a special election that will put both of Mississippi’s Senate seats up for grabs this November.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,” Cochran said in a March 5 statement announcing his departure. “My hope is by making this announcement now, a smooth transition can be ensured so (the people of Mississippi’s) voice will continue to be heard in Washington, D.C.”

Governor Phil Bryant will appoint a temporary replacement for Cochran until the remaining two years of his term can be filled by a special election in November. Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Bryant to appoint himself to the vacancy, which would give him an advantage in pursuing the seat permanently in November.

Cochran’s decision comes just four days after the filing deadline closed for the state’s June primary. After months of speculation that Cochran’s seat could come open, Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel–who fought a bruising primary against Cochran in 2014–committed to making a primary run instead against Cochran’s Senate seatmate, Roger Wicker.

McDaniel could drop out of the race against Wicker and run in the special election for Cochran’s seat, although those calculations would be affected by Bryant’s decision on who will replace Cochran.

After Cochran’s announcement, McDaniel issued a statement saying he would “monitor developments”  and “all options remain on the table as we determine the best way to ensure that Mississippi elects conservatives to the United States Senate.”

Cochran, 80, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, was hospitalized last fall for a urinary tract infection that kept him away from the Capitol for several weeks, raising questions about ability to continue in office.

While he remained chair of the committee, the No. 2 Republican on the panel, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, has filled in for Cochran during his frequent absences.

Cochran has served in Congress for nearly 46 years. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1972 and the Senate in 1978, becoming the first Republican elected statewide in Mississippi since Reconstruction.

His toughest race came in 2014, when McDaniel narrowly beat him in the first round of voting in the GOP primary to force a runoff. However, the Republican establishment roared back in favor of the veteran senator, who took the runoff by 7,700 votes.

McDaniel unsuccessfully challenged the result, alleging that the Cochran campaign had induced Democrats to vote illegally in the Republican primary. Under state law, Democratic voters were free to vote in the runoff if they had not voted during the first round in the Democratic primary, a tactic Cochran’s campaign openly encouraged.

The contentious 2014 campaign left bruised feelings in the Magnolia State, particularly after McDaniel supporter Clayton Kelly sneaked into a nursing home to photograph Cochran’s wife, who was suffering from dementia, in order to collect material for a political video alleging that Cochran was involved in an extramarital affair. McDaniel denied any involvement in the scheme.

Kelly later went to prison, and Rose Cochran died in December 2014. Senator Cochran married Kay Webber, a longtime staffer in his Washington office, in 2015.

Chris McDaniel launches bid to unseat Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker

McDaniel, a state senator, came close to defeating Mississippi’s other U.S. senator, Thad Cochran, in 2014

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ELLISVILLE, Mississippi (CFP) — Just four years after coming from out of nowhere to nearly topple Mississippi’s venerable U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, State Senator Chris McDaniel is taking aim again, but this time at Cochran’s Senate seatmate, Roger Wicker.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

Calling the Republican Party “untethered,” McDaniel announced his primary run against Wicker before a hometown crowd in Ellisville February 28, triggering what is likely to be a contentious struggle between the GOP’s establishment and Tea Party wings.

“It’s time to reassert who we are. Foundational principles matter,” said McDaniel, who went on to take a shot at politicians who, he said, change once they get to Washington and find themselves surrounded by “all that marble, all that money, and all those lobbyists.”

“Why do you keep sending the same old men to represent you?” McDaniel said, a dig at Wicker, 66, and Cochran, 80, who together have spent almost 70 years in Congress. “They are more concerned about (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell than they are you.”

“They betray you. They betray you to empower themselves. They forget about the regular people in Mississippi,” he said. “I’m tired of electing people from Mississippi who go to Washington to score points for the other team.”

However, McDaniel will be making his challenge against Wicker without the backing of President Donald Trump, who has tweeted his support for the incumbent:

“@SenatorWicker of Mississippi has been a great supporter and incredible help in getting our massive Tax Cut Bill done and approved. Also big help on cutting regs. I am with him in his re-election all the way!”

But if Trump is not embracing McDaniel, McDaniel made it clear that he would be embracing Trump.

“Donald Trump told us he wanted to drain the swamp. And I’m going to go there and help him drain the swamp,” he said.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker

After McDaniel’s announcement, Wicker released a statement saying he was “looking forward to this campaign and sharing my record of successfully fighting to reduce job-killing regulations, confirm conservative judges, enact historic tax cuts, rebuild our military, and honor our veterans.”

“We will work hard to once again earn the votes and support of all Mississippians.”

McDaniel, 45, has served in the Mississippi Senate since 2008. In 2014, he challenged Cochran, who began serving in Congress when McDaniel was in diapers, and narrowly beat him in the first round of voting to force a runoff. However, the Republican establishment roared back in favor of the veteran senator, who took the runoff by 7,700 votes.

McDaniel unsuccessfully challenged the result, alleging that the Cochran campaign had induced Democrats to vote illegally in the Republican primary. Under state law, Democratic voters were free to vote in the runoff if they had not voted during the first round in the Democratic primary, a tactic Cochran’s campaign openly encouraged.

The contentious 2014 campaign left bruised feelings in the Magnolia State, particularly after McDaniel supporter Clayton Kelly sneaked into a nursing home to photograph Cochran’s wife, who was suffering from dementia, in order to collect material for a political video alleging that Cochran was involved in an extramarital affair. McDaniel denied any involvement in the scheme.

Kelly later went to prison, and Rose Cochran died in December 2014. Senator Cochran married Kay Webber, a longtime staffer in his Washington office, in 2015.

In recent months, Cochran has been in ill health, leading to speculation that his seat might open up for McDaniel to try to fill. However, with the filing deadline for Wicker’s seat coming up March 1, McDaniel opted for a primary challenge instead.

McDaniel will be able to rely on support from Tea Party and conservative groups critical of the Senate Republican leadership, who backed him in his campaign against Cochran. He has also reportedly been meeting with Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as part of Bannon’s efforts to recruit challengers to run against incumbent Republican senators.

Wicker was elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving six terms in the U.S. House and won re-election easily in 2012. The winner of the GOP primary would be a prohibitive favorite in Mississippi, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1982.

Democratic hopes for an Alabama-style upset in neighboring Mississippi were dashed in January when Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a distant relative of Elvis Presley, decided not to run. The only Democrat to file for the seat is political newcomer Jensen Bohren, a Bernie Sanders supporter.

Click to watch Chris McDaniel’s full announcement speech

Analysis: Results in Confederate namesake counties show role of race in Democratic decline

Trump accelerates Republican shift in counties named for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states sm(CFP) — Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee loom large as icons of the Southern Confederacy, so much so that 11 Southern counties and one Louisiana parish bear their names. But if these lions of the South are aware of what is happening in their namesake counties today, they may be rotating in their graves.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Changes in presidential voting in these counties over the past 40 years illustrate just how far the Black Republicans against which Lee and Davis fought are now transcendent—and the alarming (for Democrats) degree to which white Southerners have forsaken their traditional political roots.

Of course, the South’s march toward the GOP is not news. Today, the term “Solid South” has an entirely different connotation than it did during the days of FDR or Lyndon Johnson. However, these namesake counties do provide a window into how these shifts in party preference have occurred over time and the role that race played in them.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Confederate General Robert E. Lee

The 2016 presidential results also show that the Republicanization of the South is accelerating in these counties that bear the mark of Southern heritage, which bodes ill for future Democratic prospects.

In 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter became the first Southerner to win the White House since Zachary Taylor in 1848, he carried nine of the 12 Davis and Lee counties. By 1992, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush were splitting them six-to-six.

By 2000, Republican George W. Bush had flipped nine of the 12 namesake counties his way; his average share of the total votes cast for the two major party candidates in those counties that year was an impressive 64 percent. But in 2016, Trump trumped the younger Bush, carrying those same nine counties with an average of 70 percent of the two-party vote.

In 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford’s share of the two-party vote topped 50 percent in just three namesake counties (in Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky). But by 2016, Trump’s share of the two-party vote was more than 50 percent in nine counties and parishes; above 60 percent in eight; above 70 percent in four; and above a whopping 80 percent in two (Georgia and Kentucky).

The most dramatic changes were in Jeff Davis County, Georgia, where native Georgian Carter carried 79 percent of the vote in 1976 and Trump won 81 percent in 2016, and Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, where Carter won 62 percent and Trump 75 percent. However, even in majority black Lee County, Arkansas, Trump’s 16-point loss in 2016 was less than half of Ford’s 38-point defeat.

In addition to Lee County, Arkansas, the only namesake counties Trump lost in 2016 were Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, and Lee County, South Carolina, which are also majority black. However, even in these three counties, Trump carried a larger share of the two-party vote in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

In fact, Trump improved on Romney’s result in 11 of the 12 namesake counties, save only Jeff Davis County, Texas, where Trump had to settle for merely matching Romney’s total.

The results in these namesake counties over time also illustrate the role race has played in the political realignment of the South.

In all seven of the overwhelmingly white namesake counties, the Republican share of the two-party vote was higher in 2016 than in 1976, by an average of 29 percent. Trump did better than Romney by an average of 4 percent.

By contrast, in majority-black Lee counties in Mississippi and South Carolina, the Republican two-party share fell by an average 2.5 percent from 1976 to 2016, but Trump outperformed Romney by the same 2.5 percent. These results indicate that the white Southern shift to the Republicans appears stronger than the corresponding black shift to the Democrats.

This is borne out by the results in Lee County, Arkansas, which has the smallest African-American population of any of the majority-black namesake counties (55 percent). There, the Republican share of the two-party vote actually climbed 11 percent between 1976 and 2016, and Trump beat Romney’s total by 5 percent.

Two of the namesake counties—Lee County, Florida, and Jeff Davis County, Texas—are outliers in that they have significant Latino populations. The Republican share of the two-party vote in both of those counties was higher in 2016 than it was in 1976, but Trump’s results were down from the numbers put up in 2000 and 2004 by George W. Bush, who, for a Republican, ran strongly with Latino voters.

The results in the namesake counties also illustrate the mountain which Democrats need to climb if they are to reduce Republican hegemony in the South.

The Democratic base once included small towns and rural areas across the Southern landscape, as well as urban areas. In 2016, Democrats still held the cities (with newfound and welcome signs of life in suburban Atlanta and Houston) and the mostly small rural counties with majority black populations, such as the namesake counties in Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina. Democrats also do well in college towns such as Athens, Georgia, and Gainesville, Florida.

But Democrats’ failure to compete for the votes of small town and rural white voters is what is killing them electorally, as the results in the Davis and Lee namesake counties without black majorities vividly illustrates.

Only one of these namesake counties is urban—Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort Myers—and Lee County, Alabama, contains Auburn University. The rest of these counties and parishes are all rural, white areas where Messrs. Davis and Lee are no doubt remembered fondly and Jimmy Carter ran reasonably well—and where Hillary Clinton couldn’t get elected dog catcher if she handed out $20 bills at the polling booth.

As a barometer of the past, these namesake counties illustrate how far Democrats have fallen in their former strongholds. But if Trump’s improved results over Romney’s are a barometer of the future, the bottom may not yet have been reached.

13 Southern U.S. House Democrats bow out of Trump inaugural

All of the no-shows represent districts carried by Hillary Clinton

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smWASHINGTON (CFP) — Thirteen of the 40 Southern Democrats in the U.S. House have announced that they will not take part in the January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump.

Lawmakers from Florida, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are among the no-shows. All of the boycotting members represent urban or black-majority districts that were carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s tweets castigating U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, for announcing an inauguration boycott seemed to particularly rankle some of the members opting not to attend; Trump’s reaction was called “repugnant,” “ignorant,” and “insensitive and foolish.”

“We are sending a message to Mr. Trump. Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who will be among the no-shows.

However, none of the three other Democrats in Lewis’s own Georgia delegation have joined the boycott. Also not joining so far is U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who, as head of the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign, had been a sharp Trump critic.

As for the contention by Trump supporters that the inauguration is a celebration not of him but of the peaceful transfer of power, U.S. Rep. Julian Castro, D-Texas, said, “Every American should respect the office of the presidency and the fact that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. But winning an election does not mean a man can show contempt for millions of Americans and then expect those very people to celebrate him.”

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said Trump’s “behavior and harmful words during and after the campaign have left the country I love with open, bleeding wounds. Instead of binding those wounds, he has poured salt on them. Instead of unifying us, he has reveled in driving wedges between us.”

Trump won 108 of the 154 congressional districts across the South in the November election; none of them are represented by Democrats.

Lawmakers boycotting the inaugural are unlikely to pay a political price, as all but two of them represent districts that Clinton carried with at least 60 percent of the vote. However, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, D-Florida, and John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, come from districts where Clinton’s share was just 55 percent.

The list of boycotting Democrats includes:

Georgia

Florida

Kentucky

Mississippi

North Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

Analysis: Election results show Democrats are still a long way from being competitive in the South

Clinton performed worse in the South than Barack Obama in 2012

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Prior to the November 8 election, Democrats were publicly hopeful that they might finally be turning back Republican hegemony in the South, to the degree that pro-Hillary Clinton ads were running not only in the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina but also in reliably Republican Georgia and Texas.

Election results show that thinking was not just wishful, it was magical.CFP Facebook Mugshot

In fact, Clinton did comparatively worse in the South than Barack Obama did four years ago (which, oddly, seems to undercut the notion that the South’s resistance to Obama was based on his race.) A look at regional and state-by-state figures in the presidential race shows just how grim election night was for Southerners with a D attached to their name.

Donald Trump carried 53.3 percent of the vote and 13 out of 14 Southern states. That performance was not as good as Mitt Romney’s in 2012, when he came in with 54.4 percent (although Romney only carried 12 states.) However, the performance gap between Trump and Clinton was actually larger than the gap between Romney and Obama because Clinton’s underperformance was even worse.

She took just 42.5 percent of the Southern vote; Obama won 44.3 percent. Some of that was due to a larger third-party vote which, at 4.2 percent, was about 3 points more than it was in 2012. However, the gap between the Republican and Democratic share of the vote went up everywhere except Texas and Georgia and the lone Southern state Clinton carried, Virginia.

A look at raw vote totals shows the degree to which Clinton hemorrhaged Obama supporters.

In Mississippi, Clinton’s raw vote total was nearly 101,000 less than Obama’s in 2012, a huge shift in a state where less than 1.2 million votes were cast. Given that African-Americans play an outsized role in the state’s Democratic base, Clinton’s numbers are a clear sign that black voters did not turn out for her as they did for Obama.

But if Mississippi was bad for Clinton, Appalachia was even worse — down 51,000 votes in Kentucky, 92,000 in Tennessee, and 52,000 votes in West Virginia, where Trump’s percentage of the vote soared 15 points above Romney’s number. Those three states together have 270 counties; she carried exactly five.

In Arkansas, where Clinton was first lady and her husband governor for 10 years, she lost 16,000 votes and managed just 33.6 percent of the vote, 3.3 points lower than Obama’s vote in 2012. At the same time, Trump’s vote went up 34,000 over Romney’s, a net difference of nearly 50,000 votes.

Even in Virginia, which Clinton won, her vote total was 11,000 less than what Obama put up in 2016. She won because Virginia Trump’s vote total came in less than Romney’s by about 59,000 votes.

Meanwhile, as Clinton’s vote was fading, Trump’s was surging, beating 2012 GOP totals in every state except Virginia and Mississippi.

In Florida, where a growing Latino population was supposed to lead Clinton to victory, Trump added 442,000 votes to Romney’s tally, while Clinton added just 245,000 to Obama’s. In North Carolina, he added 69,000; she lost 16,000 in a battleground state she visited repeatedly.

In total across the South, Trump added more than 1 million votes to Romney’s haul; Clinton managed to add 448,000 by offsetting her losses in 11 states with gains in Texas, Florida and Georgia.

This led to some remarkable net vote changes between the two parties — 128,000 in Alabama, 166,000 in Kentucky, 150,000 in Tennessee and 118,000 in West Virginia.

The only glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel for Democrats was their improved performance in both Georgia and Texas.

In the presidential race, Democrats closed the gap with Republicans from 8 to 5 points in Georgia and 16 points to 9 points in Texas. Clinton also carried two big suburban counties in Atlanta, Cobb and Gwinnett, that had not gone Democratic in 40 years, along with Fort Bend County in suburban Houston, normally a no-man’s-land for a Democrat.

So perhaps Democratic wistfulness for those two states may not have been entirely misplaced, although that’s cold comfort when Trump carried Florida and North Carolina on his way to the White House.

And if the presidential results were grim, the U.S. Senate races were just as bad. Republicans  went eight-for-eight, with a race in Louisiana heading for a December 10 runoff in which Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy is favored to keep the seat in GOP hands.

Democrats didn’t even bother contesting Alabama, Oklahoma or South Carolina; they did recruit credible candidates in the rest of the races, such as Conner Eldridge in Arkansas, Jim Barksdale in Georgia and Jim Gray in Kentucky. But all lost by double-digit margins.

The Democrats’ best shots to pick up GOP-held seats were thought to be in Florida, where U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was challenging Marco Rubio, and in North Carolina, where Deborah Ross was challenging Richard Burr. Murphy lost by 8 points; Ross, by 7. Both actually underperformed Clinton in their states.

The only good news for Democrats came in races for governor in West Virginia, where Jim Justice kept the office in Democratic hands, and in North Carolina, where Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper appears to have ousted Republican Governor Pat McCrory, although that race may be headed for a recount.

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