JACKSON—U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith demanded there be no audience or outside press allowed at tonight’s U.S. Senate debate and requested other restrictions, a source familiar with the debate negotiations told the Jackson Free Press Tuesday morning.
When she faces off against Democratic challenger Mike Espy at 7 p.m., only the debate moderator, panelists and the production team will be allowed in the auditorium—a requirement the Hyde-Smith campaign pushed for and the Espy team argued against.
“We supported having an audience, and we advocated for the media to have access to the studio,” Espy Communications Director Danny Blanton told the Jackson Free Press, although he declined to confirm that it was the Hyde-Smith campaign that opposed a public debate.
The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which organized the debate, told the campaigns that the decision to have an audience was up to the candidates, said the source, who asked not to be identified.
The Hyde-Smith campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.
Hyde-Smith requested and was granted other accommodations, the source said. A notepad was going to be at the podium for candidates when they stepped onto the stage at the start of the debate, but the Hyde-Smith team wanted the notepad sooner. The candidates will instead be given notepads about an hour before the debate begins.
“They have restricted this debate so much that if she bombs, it will be a miracle,” the source said.
At one point in tonight’s debate, the candidates were going to be given the chance to directly ask one another a question. The Hyde-Smith campaign, however, did not like that idea. Instead, they asked to submit the question ahead of time and for the moderator to ask the questions on the candidates’ behalfs.
Blanton would only confirm that the Espy campaign disagreed with the change.
“We thought it made more sense