Dave Dennis and The GOP Primary Vote
Of the many stories that have been written about Dave Dennis’ planned run for governor in 2011, one of the many themes that is touched upon is that lack of statewide officeholders from the Coast, and the perceived biased against the region from the rest of the state.
If Dennis were to win the GOP primary, I would put my money on his chances in the general election given the overall partisan tilt of the state and the lack of strong Democratic challengers.
That said, defeating Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant in the Republican primary is no easy task. Bryant, once the only Republican in statewide office, has been elected three times now and cruised to both a primary and general election win in 2007 against credible opponents.
Matched up head-to-head you would think Bryant would defeat Dennis (and that is a fair assessment at this point I believe), but the Republican primary voters are still the minority during the primaries, and don’t exactly resemble the overall electorate- especially in terms of geography. And this imbalance may be a great advantage to Dennis.
In the 2007 GOP primary, there were about 197,000 votes cast for Republican governor (most of it went to Haley Barbour, but he did have a challenger who took a few votes). Of those votes, nearly 35,000 came from the three Coast counties. There were 2,800 votes cast in Hancock, 16,500 votes cast in Harrison, and 15,500 votes cast in Jackson. Added up, those three counties represented 17 percent of the GOP primary vote. Population wise, the three counties make up roughly 11 percent just to give you an idea of their over-representation in the primary.
When you add the three counties that border the Coast counties to the North, you are now looking at 23 percent of the vote. Stone and George counties had about 1,000 or so GOP primary votes between them, but Pearl River had over 9,200.
So between those six counties, you have nearly one out of every four Republican primary voters. Dennis is obviously going to have to expand upon the Coast to win, but he starts off with a very solid foundation. The trick is making sure your foundation stays in tack, and the South Mississippi voters stay with Dennis.
Of course, other Republicans may jump in the race and alter this storyline, and we will be covering this in much more detail in the future as those changes occur.
Note: This is the first of a three-part series where we look at Dave Dennis, Phil Bryant, and the GOP primary. Tomorrow, I will look into Phil Bryant and the South Mississippi vote, and I’ll wrap it up Friday with a look at the counties (outside of the Coast) that will decide the election.