In blow to Senate Democrats, Mississippi Supreme Court sides with Gov. Barbour

I was thinking of ways to escape the curse of the never-ending Democratic primary race (Clinton is now 210 votes up in New Mexico and the CA delegate count is nowhere close to finish) when the Mississippi Supreme Court helped me change the subject by releasing its decision on the timing of the special election for Sen. Trent Lott former Senate seat.

On January 14th, Judge DeLaughter ruled in favor of Attorney Genearl Jim Hood, who had filed the suit. DeLaughter argued that the law clearly stated that the election had to be held "on or before March 19, 2008." (For a background of the controversy, check here).

But in a blow to Democrats (and to common sense), the Court over-turned the decision of a lower court by a 7-2 vote and ruled that Gov. Barbour has the authority to set the election on November 4th. So we will not be allowed the pleasure of following an explosive Senate race in the middle of the spring -- though I admit we will have plenty of other races to follow.

This decision is a boost for the GOP and their chances of holding this seat. Newly appointed Sen. Wicker will now have many more months to develop the advantage of incumbency and get free media exposure, implementing himself in the state. More importantly, the election will now be held the same day as the presidential race, which means that it will be a high turnout affair and that the Democratic candidate, former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, will have to convince many voters to split their tickets.

If the election had been held in 6 weeks as was the plan until this late intervention by the MS Supreme Court, Musgrove would have relied on a lower turnout election in which the issue would be getting the most motivated supporters at the polls. Given the DSCC's financial advantage and the enthusiasm gap between the two parties everywhere in the South, that would have given Musgrove hope of prevailing in a special election.

In other Senate news, two polls were released last week from New Mexico and Minnesota. Since I was already blogging about little else than polls at the time, I thought I would hold off to these for a few days, and this seems to be the perfect opportunity to share them:

  • In MN, a Minnesota Public Radio poll (PDF) is the first survey to have Al Franken ahead of GOP incumbent Coleman, albeit by a small margin: 43% to 40%. Coleman beats Mike Ciresi, another Democrat running for the nomination, 43% to 38%.

  • Meanwhile, a New Mexico Senate poll has Democrat Udall crushing his Republican opponents, 53% to 31% against Steve Pearce and 58% to 30% against Heather Wilson.
Both set of numbers are very much in line with other polls we have seen over the past few months, particularly in New Mexico where Democrats have got to be happy with the way things are shaping, as they got their strongest candidate short of Bill Richardson.

In Minnesota, this poll has to please the DSCC who has been having difficulty expanding the map over the past few months. Recruitment failures and worrisome polls in places like Maine have led Republicans to argue that the second-tier of races (Oregon, Minnesota, Maine) is holding firm for them, but Al Franken's lead in this poll should give Democrats comfort. Also, it is very important for Franken to prove that he is a serious candidate and not just a comedian. After all, he is still engaged in a very competitive Democratic primary.

One last note from North Carolina's Governor race where an entry by Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has suddenly given Republicans hope they can pull an upset in a state that votes Republican in federal elections but remains blue at the state level. A new Rasmussen poll shows McCrory would keep things close but starts as a slight underdog, as he is trailing 39% to 34% against Attorney General Richard Moore and 42% to 38% against LG Beverly Perdue.

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