“There are very few who would not consider me because I am black,” Mr. Espy, 64, said as he strolled through Indianola after lunch. “I believe we in many ways have crossed that hurdle. Many of them, if they don’t vote for me, it will be because of their idea of what I represent as a party person.”
That would be the Democratic Party, and yes, it is a problem. Mr. Espy would be Mississippi’s first black senator since Reconstruction, but the bigger obstacle may be a more modern one: convincing voters in an overwhelmingly Republican state to break partisan ranks and support a party that has gone all but extinct in major offices in this part of the South.
Overshadowed so far by Senate races sopping up money and scrutiny across the country, Mr. Espy’s quest is about to get a lot more of both. Under the unusual circumstances of the special election to fill the seat of the retired Senator Thad Cochran, two Republicans are likely to split the bulk of the state’s votes on Nov. 6. That potentially leaves Mr. Espy the lead vote-getter heading into a runoff on Nov. 27 that could tip the balance of the Senate — and will almost certainly consume the attention of the political world.