What Kind of Influence Can The Internet Have on Mississippi Politics?
Nate Silver with FiveThirtyEight.com dissected the results from Tuesday’s Arkansas primary where incumbent Blanche Lincoln fended off a challenge from Bill Halter who ran to her left with a mix of labor union and netroots support. That strategy may work in state like, say, Vermont, but Arkansas along with Mississippi rates at the bottom of what Silver dubbed the “bloginess quotient,” at least on the Democratic side for a couple of reasons.
On the Democratic side, Silver developed the ratings by multiplying the three most common demographics of readers of liberal blogs- white, college-educated, and liberal. He used 2008 Democratic primary exit polling to get those numbers.
According to those numbers in Mississippi, only 38 percent of Democratic primary voters considered themselves liberal, 35 percent were college grads, and 48 percent were white. This equaled a total score of six percent for Mississippi Democrats (only Alabama and Louisiana had lower totals). Vermont had the highest percentage at just over 39 (just to give some perspective). Another factor working against the left in Mississippi- as in Arkansas- is the small number of union members (just 4.8 percent in 2009).
There were no pushes from the left to challenge Representative Travis Childers or Gene Taylor in their primaries, and I don’t predict one as long as they are in office. And both Childers and Taylor are certainly more conservative than Lincoln (who supported healthcare reform minus the public option). We did hear some dissent from liberals in North Mississippi who were angry with Childers for opposing healthcare, but they certainly haven’t organized that in an attempt to unseat Childers.
There have, however, been runs to the left of Democrats in statewide office that come to mind. John Arthur Eaves was the Democrats nominee for governor in 2007, but in 2003 he briefly ran against Ronnie Musgrove in the primary as he was angry with his support of tort reform. And one successful example was Gary Anderson in 2007. He was aided by the left- locally and nationally who were angry with George Dale over very publicly supporting George Bush in 2004 along with his close ties to insurance after Katrina. Money from Dickie Scruggs’ didn’t hurt Anderson either, and you have to imagine race was a major factor working in Anderson’s favor with about half the voters being black. But it has happened before.
Could this quotient be used for Republicans just replacing liberal with conservative? I suppose because it isn’t exactly scientific but a good measure. Here’s what we got from the 2008 GOP primary: 63 percent considered themselves conservative, 38 percent have a college degree, and 97 percent are white. This equates to about 23 percent overall, which would be good enough for top 10 on the Democratic side (however you have to imagine the GOP scores overall would be higher because of the high percent of whites in virtually all Republican primaries).
Another demographic you need to look at when defining Internet influence is age. About 44 percent of GOP primary voters were over 60 (obviously they would be less likely to be involved in blogs). Also, rural vs. suburban/ urban would have an effect on influence just based on the availability of high-speed Internet. Of Mississippi GOP voters, 40 percent lived in what was described as the suburbs, 35 percent lived in rural areas, and 24 percent were somewhere in between. Democrat numbers were actually reversed (46 percent rural, 31 percent suburban, 21 percent in between).
Mississippi is still a very traditional state in the sense that the Internet will not win you a primary or a general election, but we obviously believe it can be a strong aid to any campaign.