Breaking: Mississippi Judge rules in favor of Hood, election to be held by March 19th

No more excuses to only follow the presidential race, get ready for a major Senate showdown before March 19th. After listening to the case brought by Mississippi's Attorney General Jim Hood that Governor Barbour had overstepped his authority in setting November 4th as the day of the special election, Judge DeLaughter came out with his decision with surprising speed and ruled against Barbour. The election has to be held, he wrote, "within 90 days of the governor's Dec. 20, 2007 proclamation of writ of election...on or before March 19, 2008." (For a background of this controversy, check here).

Barbour is likely to appeal the decision and take it to the state Supreme Court, so we have not heard the last of this controversy. But until the ruling is overturned, both parties will start preparing for an election within the next 2 months.

This is great news for the Democrats' chance of picking up this seat. Given Mississippi's conservative leanings, everything has to break right for them to have a chance of unseating the newly-appointed Republican senator. And they now have two reasons to celebrate: (1) Sen. Wicker will not have time to develop the advantage of incumbency (raise money, get some clout in DC, bring some money home, get free media exposure) and (2) the election will not be held the same day as the presidential race. It will be a low turnout affair and Democrats will have to bank on much less ticket splitting, which is always good (chances are Burns and Allen could have gotten those few thousands votes if their re-elections were not held in 2006, a midterm year).

The problem for Democrats is that they have two candidates in the race (former Gov. Musgrove and former Rep. Snows), and there is no primary since this is a special election. They will have to hold Wicker under 50% on the first round of voting and not get too nasty between each other to get a majority in the runoff -- which is certainly not an easy exercise, so maybe Schumer should see if he can convince one of them to drop out. Apart from that, the race looks sure to be competitive. There have been two polls for now, one with Wicker up 7% (of which the pollster himself said that he had undersampled black voters) and one with Musgrove up 12%.