May 13, 2008
MS-01 Special Election Preview
North Mississippians are going to the polls today for their fourth election in two months to fill the House seat of Roger Wicker who was appointed to replace former Senator Trent Lott.
Win or lose, there is no good news in today's election for House Republicans. According to the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, "This district shouldn't be in play for Democrats in federal races. George W. Bush won the district in 2000 (60%) and 2004 (63%)." The fact that MS-01 is a competitive race reflects the strength of Democratic candidate Travis Childers, the damage to the Republican brand, and the depth of the NRCC's problems this cycle.
After losing the last two competitive special elections for Republican seats (IL-14 and LA-06), the NRCC and its conservative allies have gone all out to try to hold MS-01. Republicans have had to spend nearly 20 percent of their cash on hand on a reliably Republican district. Democrats have spent only 4 percent of our cash on hand. The conservative group Freedom's Watch spent at least $460,000. In total, Republicans have spent at least $1.7 million on MS-01.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Governor Haley Barbour, former Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator Thad Cochran, former Senator Trent Lott, and Senator Roger Wicker have all campaigned on Republican Greg Davis' behalf in what Politico calls, "one of the safest Republican areas in the nation." Additionally, President Bush, Laura Bush, and Senator McCain recorded automated calls that were sent to voters throughout the district.
In the primary general, Childers received 49% of the vote and Davis received 46% percent of the vote - neither crossing the 50% threshold to win the seat outright.
Since they have no ideas and can't win on the issues, Republicans yet again tried to nationalize this election by focusing on national Democrats in their advertising. It didn't work in IL-14 and LA-06. Over the past three weeks since that election, Travis Childers has had everything but the kitchen seat thrown at him by the Davis, the NRCC, and the shadowy outside group Freedom's Watch.
- The Dispatch said, "Davis, a Republican, has proved to be a negative, anything-goes campaigner."
- The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal said, "Davis - with assistance in the special election campaign from the National Republican Congressional Committee - has focused on distortions of his opponents' records and attacks on their personal integrity that are beyond the muddied norm."
- Factcheck.org called claims by Freedom's watch and the NRCC "false" and "misleading." Republican Greg Davis has run an overwhelmingly negative campaign.
Davis, the NRCC, and the conservative group Freedom's Watch all used Barack Obama in ads by all three and Davis even ran an ad trying to tie Childers to Reverend Wright.
Democrats have been fighting a regional battle in Mississippi, while Republicans have been working to make today's election a partisan battle. MS-01 is a primarily rural district in North Mississippi. Travis Childers is a conservative Democrat from Prentiss County, part of the rural majority of the district.
In the special general election, Childers' won two thirds of the counties in the district. Childers' began working at 16 years old when his father died and went on to own a successful real estate company, nursing homes, and is the clerk of Prentiss County. Republican Greg Davis is the Mayor of the City of Southaven, a suburb of Memphis, TN.
Mississippi doesn't have party registration and BVAP is 23.7%.
Travis Childers has aggressively campaigned throughout the district on lower gas prices, keeping and creating good paying jobs in the district, against unfair trade agreements, and on conservative social values. Childers' has relied heavily on a bipartisan roster of local businessmen and local elected officials. If elected, Childers' will likely receive a seat on the Agriculture Committee.
Childers has been endorsed by every major newspaper in MS-01, including the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, The Commercial Dispatch, and Davis' hometown paper The Commercial Appeal (Memphis).
The little campaigning that Greg Davis has done in the district has been Republican's cookie cutter approach - calling Childers' a tax and spend liberal - and primarily with high profile Republican surrogates. If elected, Davis will likely receive a seat on the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
The Bottom Line
The last time a party gained three seats in a special election was more than 30 years ago.
Win or lose today, the fact this race is competitive is bad news for the NRCC, and there are more than 40 Republican incumbent and Republican challenger districts with better Democratic performances than MS-01.
MS-01 is the third time this year that the NRCC has had to spend a significant percentage of their cash on hand to defend a reliably Republican district. The NRCC simply can't get off defense if Republican districts President Bush won easily by more than 60 percent are in play.