12.31.2007

Mississippi has a new Senator and two special elections coming up

Governor Barbour just announced his choice to replace resigning Senator Lott and, after all this time, he settled on the early favorite anyway, Rep. Roger Wicker -- now Senator Wicker. First elected in 1994, Wicker will now leave his House seat creating yet another vacancy; he represents a conservative seat that Bush has carried with 62% of the vote, so it should not create too much headaches for the GOP (though it could certainly turn into a somewhat competitive race given the trackrecord of recent special elections).

Wicker is only the fifth Senator from Mississippi in 60 years, as the state has had very long serving senators who have tended to not be strongly challenged. So Wicker's first election race could very well be his toughest. And the big question, of course, is when this election will be held: On November 4th, as Barbour wants? Or within 90 days, as the law seems to require?

Two weeks ago, the state's Attorney General Hood issued an opinion siding against Barbour, and it is now likely that he will drag this to court. So look for this issue to be decided in emergency fashion since the whole question is about whether the election has to be held with 90 days. This is going to be the first big down-the-ballot story of 2008 and if Democrats and Hood win the day, we will have a special Senate election by the end of March! That would naturally give more hope for the Democratic candidate as Wicker would have less time to develop incumbency advantage.

The second question, of course, is who will run for Democrats against Wicker. Former Attorney General Mike Moore who was deemed the strongest contender by far announced earlier this month that he would not run, dealing a blow to Democratic hopes. Now most speculation is centered on former Governor Musgrove who had expressed interest in the race. There have been two polls of a Musgrove-Wicker race in the past two weeks -- and they both present problems.

The first was a Research 2000 survey that showed Wicker up 46% to 39% -- but the pollsters acknowledged they had undersampled African-Americans. The second is a Greenberg internal poll done for Musgrove, and it shows the Democrat up double-digit against Wicker. But an internal poll is always more likely to show positive results, though Greenberg is a reputed Democratic pollster.

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