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Monday, December 26, 2005

MS-Sen: Why Are Mississippi Republicans Panicking?

Posted by DavidNYC

Since Hurricane Katrina blew away Trent Lott's home, there's been a lot of talk of a potential retirement. While I figured an open seat in Mississippi could potentially be interesting, especially if a guy like Rep. Gene Taylor (MS-04) ran, I doubted the state would seriously be "in play." (It's worth noting that Democrat Taylor regularly wins by enormous margins in a district Bush carried 68-31 over Kerry.)

But according to Bob Novak's double-super-secret on-background non-for-attribution reporting, a tight race might indeed be possible - though not, apparently, with Taylor as the Dem nominee:

Mississippi, one of the reddest of the red Republican states, has not even been on the game board of the Washington analysis forecasting the 2006 Senate outcome. But in Mississippi, prominent Republicans are worried sick. They believe Lott will probably retire. If so, they expect the new senator will be a Democrat, former State Attorney General Mike Moore. Republican politicians in Mississippi believe Rep. Chip Pickering, the likely Republican nominee if Lott does not run, cannot defeat Moore.


Mississippi Republicans are so anxious about a Lott-less election next year partly because Democrat Moore is a better known, more appealing figure in the state than Republican Pickering. The state's big African-American minority continues to increase, and politically potent trial lawyers will be unrestrained on behalf of Moore. Finally, the performance by the Republican-controlled national government in coping with Katrina is no asset for Republican candidates in Mississippi.

Of course, this is the kind of lazy "reporting" that is so easy to hate (and deservedly so). Novak channels "Mississippi Republicans," "prominent Republicans," and "Republican politicians" but doesn't even bother to provide a single lousy anonymous quote. Moreover, this kind of anecdotal "evidence" (as it were) would barely pass muster as fodder for serious political analysis on most blogs. So why bother discussing it here?

For one reason and one reason only: The chatter effect. If any Republicans in high places are even pretending to be worried about a Lott retirement, that's big news. Even if they're playing a game of Brer Rabbit, you still have to wonder why they would feel threatened enough to engage in such a ruse. It's not like they can seriously rope-a-dope us into blowing resources on a race here.

Even more compelling is the news that Ken Mehlman and Kay Bailey Hutchison are allegedly "pleading" with Lott to run again. It seems pretty crazy to me that the GOP has to even fret about this seat for one nanosecond. I mean, even in 1994 (the strongest Republican year in recent times), Ted Kennedy won by 17% (over Mitt Romney, in fact). Were any Dems seriously worried about Kennedy's re-election prospects that year?

I want to see Trent Lott retire just because he so thoroughly disgusts me. If we wind up with a competitive race, that's just gravy. It's one to keep an eye on.

(Via jorndorff.)

P.S. Didn't even realize this was already being talked about in the comments below! RBH takes an in-depth look at how the House races might play out if Pickering (or Rep. Roger Wicker) were to run for Lott's seat.

UPDATE: I realize belatedly that the comparison to Kennedy is entirely unfair, since he was an incumbent. Nonetheless, I still maintain that it's very surprising to see the GOP worrying about this seat at all.

Posted at 02:55 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Mississippi | Technorati

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I always had this in the back of my mind when Lott's potential retirement was spinning around the rumor mill. And former AG Mike Moore always struck me as the best-case scenario candidate, even though I personally find his claim to fame (his high-profile role in starting the disastrous public policy avalanche that was the 1998 tobacco settlement with the states) to be a dubious honor. Nonetheless, I'd wholeheartedly support his candidacy and give him close to 50-50 odds at picking up this seat. On the other hand, I think it's a little too early for either side to suggest Moore would be a frontrunner against Pickering considering how radioactive it's become to have a (D) next to your name running in the South, particularly beet-red Mississippi. Moore would have to run a pitch-perfect campaign where he villify Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi more than he villified Chip Pickering if he was to win.

Byron Dorgan said a few months ago that he wakes up every morning excited to see what Trent Lott's latest of attack against the Bush administration would be....back when Lott's book came out. Looks like Lott will have Washington on its toes for all of this week again.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 26, 2005 04:51 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Personally I would much rather see either Ronnie Musgrove or Ray Mabus run for this seat than Mike Moore. For personal reasons, I have a hard time mustering much respect for Moore.

Posted by: quaoar [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 26, 2005 10:10 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mississippi Politics are not as they may seem...
...Mike Moore served (I apologize for not being sure) 8 or 12 years as AG for the state and was known for taking on the Tobacco Companies and winning. The Private Lawyers he partnered with in the prosecution made 10's of millions each while he made his state salary and little else. He retired in 2003 and is now in private practice making up for lost time. He is also the public face of The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, an organization he helped found which is often in conflict with (Republican Gov. and oft mentioned presidential prospect) Haley Barbour. He has his hands full and I believe, and have been told by better connected higher up Democrats that he has little to no interest in running for office at the current time.

Gene Taylor is the only other well known Democrat in Mississippi who'd have any chance at the seat on his own merits but will never (I believe) run for statewide office. He is just too comfortable with his seat representing coastal Mississippi and as a ranking member on the Armed Services committee, he'd have a lot to lose in terms of clout and seniority were he to leave the house. He simply will not do it.

A Lott retirement is bad in two ways,
1st Mississippi will lose much more than a strong voice in the US Senate and the state with so many needs, especially now following Katrina, would have less clout and leverage on Capitol Hill.
2nd, the seat would most certainly be taken by a Republican more closely allied with the morally corrupt wing of the Republican party and would be far worse. (Lott was a key player behind the scenes in protecting the filibuster and changed the whole debate when he bucked his party on prescription drugs.) (I'm praying he stays)

Posted by: deepsouthdem [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 26, 2005 11:22 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

One thing that must be considered in Mississippi is demographics. This is a state whose population is 36% African-American, a group who is not particularly happy with the republican party in the wake of Katrina. Of course, African-American turnout is historically low. But that is absolutely in our control to change. If we launch a historic GOTV effort, it is entirely plausible that a republican in Mississippi could be defeated even if he or she won 75% of the White Vote. With work and a real commitment by a candidate to working for one of poorest African-American populations in the country, "beet-red" Mississippi could be turned blue again.

Posted by: sammy21 [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 27, 2005 08:53 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Lott will run for re-election, he just wants a plum chairmanship and is having a hissy fit. Why does Moore have to wait for an open seat? Run against Lott!!! This is why we lost the Senate in the first place, because strong candidates like Moore are too timid!!!

Posted by: davis [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2005 06:08 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment