Chamber of Commerce makes play in Mississippi Senate race for Hyde-Smith

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is out with a new six-figure ad meant to back newly appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) in her fall bid for reelection, which will pit her in a tight race against state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), among other opponents.

The early effort is indicative of the Republican establishment's push to rally around Hyde-Smith, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) to fill Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranGOP Senate candidate to African Americans: Stop begging for 'government scraps' Trump endorses Hyde-Smith in Mississippi Senate race GOP Senate candidate doubles down on Robert E. Lee despite Twitter poll MORE's (R) vacant seat.

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McDaniel, a hard-charging conservative state senator who ran in a surprisingly competitive, yet brutal, 2014 primary against Cochran, has a base of support in the state that could make him a strong candidate. Republicans fear the GOP candidates could split the vote in the nonpartisan primary, opening the possibility for a Democrat to win.

The chamber's new ad, which will run on broadcast television as well as cable and satellite, is a biographical spot meant to introduce voters to Hyde-Smith, the state's former agriculture commissioner. It plays up her farming roots and her "strong conservative" record, while connecting her with Bryant and his administration.

"There's a reason Gov. Bryant chose Cindy to go shake up Washington," the ad's narrator says. "Because conservative Cindy Hyde-Smith will fight for Mississippi until the cows come home."

As the incumbent, Hyde-Smith will have the backing of much of the Washington establishment. Her supporters argue that her record in the state and as a rancher gives her the best chance of winning in the fall, keeping the GOP from repeating the shocking upset that cost the party Alabama's Senate special election late last year.

But McDaniel and his allies have bristled at that assertion, using her past status as a Democrat to argue that she won't be able to convince conservatives to jump on board.

McDaniel is no stranger to high-profile fights against the establishment — his 2014 primary against Cochran was one of the tightest elections of the cycle, but also one that unearthed racial allegations on both sides and where McDaniel supporters were caught taking pictures of Cochran's wife in her private nursing home.

It's that history that gives Republicans pause, particularly with Mississippi's "jungle" primary system that will have all candidates running against each other in a nonpartisan primary.

If no candidate hits 50 percent plus one, which is more likely with a crowded field, the top two candidates move onto a runoff.

That could mean that two strong GOP candidates, like Hyde-Smith and McDaniel, could split the vote share and allow for a Democrat who has coalesced their side of the aisle to sneak into a runoff. Right now, former Rep. Mike Espy (D) and state Rep. David Baria, the Democratic leader in the House, are running on the left.