National Democratic groups routed millions of dollars into Mississippi, sensing that Tate Reeves, the Republican governor, might be vulnerable. Inside the state, some Republicans quietly fretted. Mr. Reeves’s likability had been a persistent concern, and there were signs that enthusiasm among conservatives had been flagging.
But on Tuesday night, Mr. Reeves stepped onto a stage at a hotel outside Jackson brimming with satisfaction: In the end, he had secured a second term by a five-point margin.
“Not too bad,” he told a crowd of supporters, for “one of the most unpopular governors in America!”
Even with his perceived flaws as a candidate and the sizable investment that Democrats made in hopes of capitalizing on them, Mr. Reeves, 49, swatted away an energetic challenge by Brandon Presley, a conservative Democrat whose campaign appeared to be gaining steam before Election Day.
In many ways, the race was Mr. Reeves’s to lose, given the grip the Republican Party has on Mississippi politics. Republicans hold every elected statewide office and have a supermajority in the state Legislature; the last Democrat to win a governor’s race did so in 1999.
Yet Mr. Presley, an elected public utilities commissioner and former mayor of Nettleton, Miss., his small hometown, believed he could succeed by cobbling together liberal-to-centrist white voters, frustrated Republicans and Black voters, who make up nearly 40 percent of the electorate. That alliance did not coalesce as he had hoped, not least because few Republicans could be swayed.
“You stick with what you know instead of the devil you don’t,” said Tammy Moody, 59, a Reeves voter who lives in Walls, by the Tennessee border.