Special election watch: Republicans rush to save Southern seats

A week from the special election in Mississippi's 1st district and less than three weeks from Louisiana's 6th, national Republicans are getting increasingly worried at the prospect of losing not one but two staunchly conservative Southern districts.

MS-01, first, since this is a district we have talked about much less. On the ballot on April 22nd will be six names with no party affiliation indicated. The top two candidates are Democrat Travis Childers and Republican Greg Davis who won competitive contests in the regular primaries last months. If no one gets 50% on April 22nd, a run-off will be held on May 13th. Bush won this seat overwhelmingly in 2004 -- and this is the last place Republicans were expecting to have to compete in.

But MS-01 is the type of district that has very deep Democratic roots and where many local officials still call themselves Democrats. A poll last week suggested that the race could be very competitive. And all of this has forced the NRCC to jump in the race with a medium-sized ad buy. The NRCC's ad alleges that Childers mismanaged a nursing home that he runs with his wife. (you can view the ad here). “Childers doesn’t care about seniors... He profits from them,” charges the NRCC's ad.

You can be sure that the GOP would not have invested here had they not been sure that they needed to take emergency action: The NRCC has very little money, a ton of endangered seats and it does not want to have to spend the next few months defending seats that are supposed to be as safe as MS-01. Consider also that the DCCC did not fire the first shot here as it did in LA-06, making the NRCC's choice to invest funds even more dramatic.

In LA-06, meanwhile, the situation continue to look very worrisome for Republican nominee Woody Jenkins. The DCCC has invested more than $150,000 here, forcing the GOP to respond in a weakly produced ad. There had been talk just a few days before the NRCC's investment that they would abandon Jenkins to his fate, too concerned that his controversial profile made him unelectable. Today, the Cazayoux campaign released a new internal poll that show the Democrat leading Jenkins 49% to 42%, confirming the GOP's worst fears.

Now, Freedom's Watch, a conservative independent group, has launched itself in the LA-06 battle by airing a negative ad against Cazayoux (you can view it here). This spot picks up where the NRCC left off, accusing Cazayoux of favoring tax hikes. It looks a bit less like a caricature than the NRCC's ad, however, and a second ad with the same message could start hurting Cazayoux as it could start drilling in the idea that this (very conservative) Democrat wants to raise taxes.

Freedom's Watch is a 501c and is not allowed to directly come out supporting or opposing any candidate. It has to only address an issue, leading to the ad's silly conclusion which urges viewers to call Cazayoux's office to urge him to not raise taxes... Another thing to consider is that Freedom's Watch advocacy director was responsible for the NRCC's independent expenditures in 2006, suggesting that this is a group we will hear (and see) a lot from in the coming months.

In Senate news, finally, two interesting polls were released over the past few days:

  • In Louisiana, a Southern Media & Opinion Research survey shows Mary Landrieu beating John Kennedy by twelve percent, 50% to 38%.
  • In North Carolina, Rasmussen finds that incumbent Elizabeth Dole leads challenger Kay Hagan 52% to 39% and Jim Neal 51% to 37%.
The North Carolina Senate race is a long shot for Democrats, who have to bank on something dramatic happening that makes this race competitive -- almost like Virginia in 2006 -- and who have to deal with the fact that this contest was one of their recruitment disasters of the year. In Louisiana, this is the second recent poll showing Landrieu up double-digits, after last week's Rasmussen poll. LA is supposed to be the most (only?) endangered Democratic-held Senate seat of the cycle, so it is not a good sign for the GOP that they can't even hold under 50%.

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