A Look At The MS-04 Primary With About A Month To Go
Today is actually four weeks to the day when voters will head to the polls to vote in Congressional primaries, and there are a couple good ones in Mississippi, including the Fourth District matchup between Joe Tegerdine and Steven Palazzo. I have extensively covered the happenings with the race, but wanted to now take a more in-depth look and where we are.
In just six weeks, Palazzo posted a very impressive $125,000 fundraising total for Q1. There is no way to overlook that and dismiss it. Until proven otherwise, you need money to win an election. In the Pete Session’s interview on CNN that I posted yesterday he simply said ‘you gotta have money.’ Palazzo has many established political ties and has worked that in his favor very successfully. In my conversations with Republican sources in Washington who are monitoring the race, they wanted to see how Palazzo did fundraising wise and as I have talked about they are pretty happy about things. The infrastructure for a successful campaign appears to be there.
Raising money looks like it was the first goal of the Palazzo campaign. One source I spoke with on the Coast about a month ago applauded his fundraising but noted that he needs a better grassroots campaign and internet presence. He added, “Simple rallies or visiting the county parties won’t get your name out to the general masses.” From the looks of it, this must have been the second part of the campaign rollout. The campaign is now pretty active on the mandatory websites like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.
With Tegerdine, on the other hand, he really started out with the grassroots support first. He made a name for himself speaking at Tea Party/ 912 rallies and the like and gained a very passionate following. His campaign is very active in tracking websites, posting comments (as you have undoubtedly seen here), voting in polls, etc. He boasts of an impressive army of about 700 volunteers and is regularly on Facebook and Twitter talking about going door-to-door, manning phone banks, etc. He also keeps a full calendar of many small (and some large) operation events.
That’s the good. Now to the fundraising. This part of his campaign has just not come around yet. Tegerdine has said the election won’t be about money (and any candidate- even ones who are posting big fundraising totals should say that), but I don’t know how accurate of an assessment that is. Tegerdine’s loyal group will support him while Palazzo’s group will support him, but to the open minded Republican who wants to knock off Gene Taylor- he or she is going to look at that fundraising and wonder if Tegerdine could seriously do that. Tegerdine has had a couple fundraisers since the Q1 reports, but we will have to see what kind of numbers they brought.
There are also a couple variables at play here I wanted to look at. In the Pete Session’s interview he did not openly say that they prefer a businessman over someone with a political background, but you get the sense of what they want. I also cited the Florida Senate primary where the defacto incumbent- Charlie Crist- was trailing badly to Marco Rubio, who has run a grassroots, conservative campaign and is a favorite of the Tea Party movement. So does that hurt Palazzo who has served in the state House since 2006? Palazzo is happy to tell you about his business background as a CPA and his career in the military- notice his ad doesn’t say send a state Representative to Congress. It is impossible to predict if this will be a fatal flaw, but I do believe his campaign has handled his experience in those three areas (military, business and politics) well. I don’t think you could, but they are not hiding his legislative experience in any way.
Another thing that I continue to wonder about is the fact that Tegerdine is not a native of Mississippi or the South- and has only lived in the state for a few years now. Take a look at the websites of members of the state legislature- there are very few not from Mississippi. Take a look at the statewide office holders and Congressional delegation- Mississippians like to elect someone from Mississippi (I understand Gene Taylor is from New Orleans but he was well settled in the area before he ran from Congress and there are obvious cultural ties between NOLA and the Gulf Coast). When most people go to the polls, I would imagine the vast majority of voters won’t know where Tegerdine was originally from (although Palazzo has proudly pointed out that he was born and raised in Mississippi). I don’t want to say Tegerdine’s birthplace will be a deciding factor, but I do admit I have trouble envisioning a Mississippi Congressman from the Northwest. But I’ve been wrong before.
And then there are the regional rivalries within the district. Tegerdine is from Petal in the northern part of the district while Palazzo is from the Coast. Taylor also lives on the Coast. Would the Coast support someone from the northern part of the district? You can ask that question for the primary and general election. Don’t know if I can answer the primary question, but for the general election that would undoubtedly be a no considering Taylor’s ties and support for the crucial industry along the Coast.
I was thinking about making a primary prediction, but I’m not going to. I haven’t seen any polling to date and anything would just be a very rough guess. We’ll continue to follow the remaining four weeks of the race very closely. And be on the lookout for a look at MS-01 tomorrow.