Bryant In 2007: Strengths and Weaknesses
Over the past two days, I have focused on the South Mississippi vote in a very early look at the potential Dave Dennis-Phil Bryant gubernatorial primary. Dennis, a native of the Coast, can look to a very strong base in the six Southern-most counties, but Bryant has certainly held his own in both primaries and the general election.
Today, I wanted to take a quick look at some other counties/ regions that will most likely decide the primary, and offer some inside scoop I have received on the race.
Starting in the North, Desoto county provides a little more than nine percent of the entire primary vote. Bryant barely edged Charlie Ross in 2007 winning about 51 percent of the more than 18,000 votes cast. Like any Republican in the general election, Bryant easily won the county, but Dennis could take heed in knowing Bryant didn’t have an overwhelming showing last time around.
The same could be said for Lowndes county. In 2007, Ross actually won the county with about 52 percent of the vote. There were about 6100 votes cast. (Note: Ross is a Webster County native so that may have had some influence on the Columbus/ Lowndes county vote). And another large county that Ross won was Lauderdale. Ross picked up about 53 percent of the more than 11,000 votes cast. So in these three counties with about 35,000 votes between them (about 18 percent of the primary), Bryant essentially split the vote with Ross.
With the Coast, Dennis has reason for optimism because of his home base and these three influential counties (Desoto, Lowndes, and Lauderdale) could provide comfort to the campaign knowing Bryant didn’t exactly clean up in the primary. That said; there are a couple other important areas that Bryant did very well for himself.
In the metro counties of Hinds, Madison, and Rankin, Bryant did no worse than 61 percent (in Hinds). In his home county of Rankin- running against a State Senator from Brandon- Bryant won 65 percent of the more than 26,000 votes cast. Bryant won 65 percent of the more than 14,000 votes cast in Madison and 61 percent of the nearly 12,000 votes cast in Hinds. Warren county provided another 5,800 votes and Ross actually won about 57 percent of the vote there.
Those four counties, which make up Bryant’s base, provided around 58,000 votes- nearly 30 percent of the primary total. This will be an awfully tough nut to crack for Dennis but he is going to need to do better than Ross did- not necessarily win- just do better to have a legitimate shot.
The Pine Belt region was also a strong point for Bryant. Just looking at two of the bigger counties- Forrest and Lamar- Bryant won 63 percent of the 11,000 plus votes in Lamar and 67 percent of the more than 8,000 votes cast in Forrest.
Some have said that with different candidates in different years, these numbers are going to change. I won’t argue with that, but this does provide a snapshot of where the campaigns begin.
As for Dennis, I have mentioned the counties where he most likely has his best shot at doing well, but it goes without saying his biggest handicap right now his name ID. According to internal polling that I have seen Dennis is polling statistically at 0 in his home county and in the other 17 counties that make up 85 percent of the vote. Bryant, on the other hand, has seen his name ID double in the past five years thanks to his 2007 campaign and the earned media that goes with being Lt. Governor. And with that name ID is a very high favorability rating.
This is going to come down to money for Dennis. One source I spoke with said Dennis is committed to putting up $500,000 but he is going to need to find some way to raise seven figures- certainly not an easy task.
We have a long campaign ahead, and this certainly is not the last that has been written of this race.
Note: This is the third of a three-part series where we look at Dave Dennis, Phil Bryant, and the GOP primary. In the previous two articles, I looked at Dave Dennis and the influence that South Mississippi has on the GOP primary, followed by a story yesterday on how well Phil Bryant has done in South Mississippi in the past.