The Importance of Northeast Mississippi
A recent article by Bobby Harrison spoke about the importance of Northeast Mississippi, both in the First District race (where it obviously makes up the bulk of the district) along with the state as a whole. And that has been the general consensus for sometime- whoever wins Northeast Mississippi will win statewide.
To back those numbers up, I looked at two previous gubernatorial elections (I opted against 2007 because Haley Barbour was such a strong incumbent his numbers were inflated). Ronnie Musgrove’s total in the 16-county region in his 1999 gubernatorial win is on the left, along with his showing four years later when he was unseated by Barbour.
With the exception of Chickasaw, his vote went down and in most cases fairly significantly (8-10 points on average). In 1999, Musgrove won all but two counties in the region, but by 2003 he only held on to win six. Obviously the results speak for themselves. It is true that when someone wins or loses, there vote total will fluctuate depending on the outcome (by that I mean I am sure Musgrove did worse in just about every county in the state in 2003 compared to 1999). But, there is no region of the state where voters- white voters in particular- are willing to support either party and can move from election to election as they have shown.
Consider this: Most of these voters supported Ray Mabus (once), Kirk Fordice (twice), Ronnie Musgrove (once), and Haley Barbour (twice), and in the meantime they sent Roger Wicker and then Travis Childers to Congress. Conservative? Yes. Republican? Not necessarily.
The Democratic strongholds consist of the Mississippi River counties (including all of the Delta), Jackson/ Hinds county, and the various majority-black counties sprinkled throughout the state. Republicans dominate in the Northwest (mainly Desoto county), the Jackson suburbs, the Pine Belt and the Coast. Here is a state map with the 99 and 03 results courtesy of Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Election. You’re going to have forget the common color format for a minute because in this case Blue=Republican and Red=Democrat.
Notice there wasn’t much change except for one part of the state- Northeast Mississippi. Since Republicans became competitive it has been regarded as the battleground (I guess similar to Ohio or Florida in presidential elections). While the rest of the state continues to be more Republican, I don’t think that will offset the importance of this region.