SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (AP) — President Donald Trump is looking to use his influence to sway the outcome of a low-profile election in Mississippi that could tip the balance of the Senate.
As Republicans fight headwinds ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm election, Trump rallied his supporters on Tuesday behind Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to fill the seat of Republican Thad Cochran, who retired in April. She faces three candidates — Republican Chris McDaniel and Democrats Mike Espy and Tobey Bernard Bartee — in next month's special election for the remainder of the two-year term.
Republican officials and the White House expect Hyde-Smith's race to go to a runoff under the state's jungle election rules that force a showdown between the top two finishers if no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the vote on Election Day. With Republicans defending majorities in the House and Senate next month, officials cast Trump's visit as an attempt to get ahead of a potentially perilous situation.
Officials said Trump is seeking to boost Hyde-Smith as close as possible to the 50 percent threshold and lend momentum for a possible runoff. Depending on how Republicans perform on Nov. 6, the eyes of the nation could fall on a Nov. 27 Mississippi runoff in what could become an expensive and high-profile race to determine control of the Senate.
Trump's support for Hyde-Smith is hardly without controversy — even at one of his own rallies. A vocal minority of the crowd on Tuesday backed McDaniel, a conservative state senator, and booed mention of Hyde-Smith's name before Trump arrived. They even launched into occasional chants of "We want Chris."
Earlier Tuesday, Trump told electrical contractors gathered in Philadelphia that his economic policies would translate into more jobs for their ranks as he highlighted a new trade deal among the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
"We're in the midst of a manufacturing renaissance — something which nobody thought you'd hear," Trump said in a speech to the National Electrical Contractors Association Convention a day after celebrating the new North American trade deal.
In fact, North America already is a manufacturing powerhouse. The United States ranks No. 2 in the world behind China in manufacturing output. Mexico ranks 11th and Canada 13th, according to United Nations numbers pulled together by the Brookings Institution.
Trump calls the new trade agreement USMCA, for U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. "Like YMCA or U.S. Marine Corps with an A at the end," he explained.
He said he doesn't want to use the previous name, NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he contends cost American jobs and railed against during his 2016 presidential campaign. The new trade deal still must be approved by Congress.
"We are finally rebuilding our country, and we are doing it with American aluminum, American steel and with our great electrical contractors," he said.
Trump said the strong economy "means more jobs for our great electrical contractors."
Before departing the White House, Trump tweeted: "THE ONLY REASON TO VOTE FOR A DEMOCRAT IS IF YOU'RE TIRED OF WINNING!"