Thursday, May 15, 2008

MS-01: Dems win another special election!

Now this was sweet. In another special election in northern Mississippi, Democrat Travis Childers beat Republican Greg Davis by a healthy 54%-46% margin.

The seat had been in Republican hands since 1995, and the district, largely rural and stretching across the northern top of Mississippi, had been considered one of the safest in the country for President Bush’s party, as he won here with 62 percent of the vote in 2004.

Having lost a similar Congressional race this month in Louisiana, Republicans had worked desperately to win this contest, sending Vice President Dick Cheney to campaign for Mr. Davis, along with Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; President Bush and Senator John McCain recorded telephone messages that were sent to voters throughout the district.

Merle Black, a Southern politics expert at Emory University, called a Democratic victory potentially “a huge upset, and an indication of a terrible year ahead for the Republicans.” He added, “In theory, this should be an easy win for them.”

What's especially important about this race is not just that Democrats were able to compete in a deep red district, but how the Republican attacks didn't work. The GOP was actively trying to use Rev. Wright and Obama against Childers. And what happened? Childers did BETTER in the runoff than he did in April!

But the Republican strategy of trying to link Mr. Childers to more liberal national Democratic figures fell short, as it did in Louisiana. Indeed, voters here were bombarded by advertisements equating Mr. Childers with Senator Barack Obama, a tactic intended to turn conservative whites away from Mr. Childers and which some politicians said played on white racial resentments. Mr. Childers, for his part, fiercely resisted the connection, calling himself over and over a “Mississippi Democrat.”


In the end, tying the white Democrat to the black presidential candidate may have helped Mr. Childers more than it hurt him, as campaign aides reported heavy black turnout, heavier than in a vote three weeks ago when he came within 400 votes of winning.

This was such a blow for the GOP, the NRCC didn't even try to spin the loss. The Washington Post has more.

Nathan Gonzalez, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said polling data in key eastern portions of the district before the race showed that Childers's numbers "aren't getting any worse" because of the ads.


Some Republicans are clamoring for their leadership and the NRCC to craft a new strategy, fearing a repeat of the 2006 elections, when Republicans lost 30 seats that they previously held and Democrats did not lose a single seat of their own.

"Some people in the conference, to some extent, have been complacent to waking up to how badly the brand was damaged in 2006," Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), a leader of a conservative coalition, said in a recent interview.

This week, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) unveiled a new campaign theme that directly embraced Obama's "change" message by establishing "change you deserve" as the new mantra for the House Republican Conference.

It was then pointed out that the slogan already exists... for the anti-depressant drug Effexor. How... fitting. And the GOP still doesn't get it, thinking the only reason Childers won was because he's a social conservative, and not because of the bread & butter things like getting us out of Iraq, and being an unabashed economic populist. Show us that you're for the middle class and the working people, and not for corporations and their CEOs; that's what most voters want to see (CEOs excluded).

So, we now head into the November elections with Democrats holding a 236-199 lead in the House. That's right, there's now less than 200 Republicans in the House.

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