Polls will close in the Magnolia state at 8 PM Eastern time, bringing an end to the dirtiest race in America so far this year. Incumbent Thad Cochran is widely expected to lose to challenger Chris McDaniel, but reports of high turnout suggest he may yet eke out a win. ‘Outside’ Republican groups have sent election monitors to Mississippi out of fear that black Democrats would respond to Cochran’s outreach efforts. 

This post will be updated as hard results become available.

UPDATE 1: While there are no results in yet, you can watch for them at Politico. The DSCC has put together a list of negative things that Republicans are saying about McDaniel. Salon has a good analysis of the cultural politics that make it difficult for Cochran to win this way.

UPDATE 2: With just the first 3% of the vote counted, Cochran has a small lead. The Washington Post has a nifty chart of the counties where each candidate is strong.

UPDATE 3: With 5% of the vote counted, Cochran has a six point advantage. You can also watch the results at Real Clear Politics.

8:57 PM EDT Update 4: with almost 12% of ballots counted, Cochran’s lead is growing. Bolivar County, where Cochran enjoyed a narrow lead three weeks ago, has turned out much better for him this time.

9:02 PM EDT Update 5: I refer you again to this WaPo chart, because it looks like each candidate is doing better than three weeks ago in the counties where they won.

9:10 PM EDT Update 6: Rachel Maddow just noted the irony of Cochran running on a platform that government has an important role in Mississippi – a message that Democrats haven’t run on since before Ronald Reagan’s speech to the Neshoba County Fair in 1980.

9:21 PM EDT Update 7: With more than 40% of the vote counted, Cochran still has a six point lead.

9:34 PM EDT Update 8: Of the eleven counties where McDaniel had the biggest advantage three weeks ago, all but one has begun reporting. Yet with those ten counties all reporting at least 80% of ballots now, Cochran is still hanging on to a 5+ point lead.

9:38 PM EDT Update 9: Cochran’s lead has slipped to just 4% of ballots, but Jones County is the only McDaniel bastion that isn’t already reporting.

9:41 PM EDT Update 10: Cochran’s lead is down to 2.5% with more than 60% of ballots counted.

9:47 PM EDT Update 11: With almost 70% of the votes tallied, Cochran’s percentage is smaller but he still leads by almost ten thousand votes, making it harder to see how McDaniel pulls off a win tonight.

9:53 EDT Update 12: Cochran’s lead is back down to 2% now with three quarters of ballots counted. But we’re still waiting on Jones County, which might be enough for McDaniel.

9:58 EDT Update 13: I’ve noticed some trouble for Cochran: he’s losing Washington County, which he won three weeks ago, and he’s winning Lauderdale and Lafayette counties with smaller margins than before.

10:13 EDT Update 14: Jones County has reported 68% of ballots, giving McDaniel a five thousand vote burst…but he’s still behind by almost 2% of the vote, or about 3,500 votes.

10:18 EDT Update 15: With 89% of districts reporting, Cochran still has a 4,000-vote lead, a margin of about 1.4% of the nearly 303,000 votes tallied so far.

10:24 EDT Update 16: Only one county hasn’t begun reporting, and it’s Cochran-leaning Holmes. With 93% of the ballots counted, it looks like the incumbent has unexpectedly beaten the tea party in one of America’s reddest states.

10:35 EDT Update 17: Now with 95% of ballots counted, Cochran’s lead is less than one percent or about 2,500 votes.

10:45 EDT Update 18: Holmes County, which has still not begun reporting, is one of three counties where blacks represent the largest share of the voting population. I don’t see how this election breaks for McDaniel at the end.

10:56 EDT Update 19: We are on the cusp of mathematical elimination for McDaniel. Cochran holds a 1.2% lead with 97% of the counting done, a difference of more than four thousand votes out of about 365,000 votes cast today. To put that in perspective, the population of Mississippi is a bit under three million people.

11:00 EDT Update 20: I’m calling this race for Cochran. Holmes County has started reporting and there is no way McDaniel can win this thing.

11:04 EDT Update 21: Chris Hayes says that the Associated Press has called the race for Cochran. I beat them both by about one minute 🙂

11:09 EDT Update 22: Adding before I close out the liveblog:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/ypW9ptwviRU[/youtube]