Four Weeks Until The Primary
Like many things, the primary election season has gone by incredibly fast and the election will be here before we know it; in fact it is four weeks from today. Here is a rundown of what I am looking at today in the three big primaries.
In the beginning we knew Phil Bryant would be the frontrunner. He has worn that title from day one, and it would be very difficult to make any other argument today. Bryant has raised the most money, picked up a number of key endorsements, and has generally run a safe race like you would expect the leader to do so. Bryant has committed gaffes, but nothing that would be detrimental to a campaign.
For Dave Dennis, his tall task remains overcoming the popularity of Bryant. I have never heard Republican voters speak negatively of Dennis; but Bryant is who they have known and supported in the past, have no reason to turn against him, and that is just very difficult to overcome. As for the outsider angle, it didn’t catch fire in the Congressional primaries in Mississippi one year ago and it doesn’t look to be key here like we have seen in other states. Dennis has won some Tea Party endorsements, but so has Bryant.
Then, of course, we have the money. Bryant continues to lead on that front and we just don’t see those who lose the money game win Republican primaries that often.
One interesting thing to look at as well is the possibility of a runoff should no candidate crack the 50 percent plateau. It’s a possibility, and with Republicans Hudson Holliday and Ron Williams spending money at an amazing clip for long-shot candidates, you have to wonder if they have moved up any and where those votes may have come from.
On the Democratic side, I am little surprised that black political establishment has not moved toward Johnny DuPree in any major way. Bill Luckett has anointed himself the primary winner by focusing on Bryant in every other press release, and that’s not necessarily a bad strategy in a race where picking a favorite is difficult to do.
There have been rumors of a Bennie Thompson endorsement for DuPree for some time now, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet. If it does, it will certainly be a game changer especially in Luckett’s own backyard. For now, I believe we will still see results generally polarized by race, but, again, I don’t think we have a clear leader.
The most entertaining primary so far, Billy Hewes has really gone after Tate Reeves in a way that Dennis has yet to do so with Bryant. Is it working? Hewes has a nice fundraiser coming up with some big names backing him, and I’m sure he enjoyed a recent Sun Herald article that took a less than flattering look at Reeves and some of his campaign contributors.
That said, as we saw from the only independent polling I have seen on the race, Hewes had a long way to go and had little name identification north of the Coast. We know negative advertising works (why else would campaigns still use it if it didn’t), but with many (average) voters in the metro area, Desoto county, and elsewhere they were first introduced to Hewes with his press conference and corresponding ad going after Reeves, along with the media attention that followed.
And again, like in the gubernatorial primary, there is the question of can you win with less money. Reeves- as he has been the whole race- is sitting pretty with his cash on hand, and like Bryant, has worn the frontrunner mantle well. And for Hewes, you want to avoid reminding voters of Charlie Ross.
Lucien Smith continues to put up very nice fundraising numbers, which have made him the leader in my opinion. Unlike the GOP primaries for governor and lieutenant governor, we entered this race without a clear favorite so that is a bit more difficult of a call to make.
I do believe, however, this nomination won’t be determined on August 2 with three very capable candidates.
At this point we can be honest about at least one thing- most voters don’t know much about any of the candidates: Smith, Lee Yancey, or Lynn Fitch. All three have certainly been criss-crossing the state, attending festivals and events, but the treasurer’s race just isn’t one that attracts much attention or headlines. This is where Smith’s money comes into play; his ability to get on the air in much stronger fashion than Yancey or Fitch.
Of course, if you’re a campaign, at some point you have to make a decision on how to spend your funds. Can you afford to hold back knowing a runoff means three more weeks of campaigning? I suppose some will say that is like a baseball manager holding his ace for game seven when they are facing elimination in game six.
Neshoba County Fair
Neshoba is coming up at the end of the month, and voters will head to the polls soon afterwards. I’d say that is the last, best chance to make an impression if you are an underdog, and the biggest platform you will likely receive. I’d at least wait until Neshoba concludes to say anything is a done deal.