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Shutdown Shakeout in Mississippi
How votes for, against Reid-McConnell deal may impact Mississippi politics

by Frank Corder
Four of the six members in Mississippi's federal delegation voted for a budget deal after 16 days of government shutdown: Senators Roger Wicker (R) and Thad Cochran (R) as well as Congressmen Bennie Thompson (D - MS-02) and Gregg Harper (R - MS-03).

Congressman Steven Palazzo (R - MS-04) and Alan Nunnelee (R - MS-01) voted against the Reid-McConnell deal.

In the current political environment and with 2014 midterms approaching, what impact will this vote have on these incumbents' races?

Obviously, Wicker doesn't stand for reelection anytime soon so he's fairly safe besides the phone calls and social media jabs from a small yet vocal crowd he's sure to take in the coming days.

Thompson has no need to look in his rear view mirror. He knows that. We all know that.

Palazzo and Nunnelee did what their bases expected them to do. They followed through on their campaign promises aimed at reducing the nation's debt, stopping Obamacare, and ending the special deals in D.C. Democrats and critics will say they have been coopted by the Tea Party. I don't buy that. I see these two finding their footing and learning to stand on their principles despite the pressures around them.

Both might draw minor in-party challengers but should cruise through the primary. And at least Palazzo may draw a Democratic opponent, maybe a legislator or some young, naive buck.

Palazzo still has to deal with Gene Taylor's Favre-esque flirtations. It's as if the former Democratic MS-04 Congressman just can't seem to settle into private life. He continues to fan the flames of speculation but admits he would have to run as a Republican to have any chance against Palazzo. A Taylor run would push Palazzo more than anyone else, but with Nancy Pelosi still queen bee of House Democrats and the state Democratic party broke and in disarray, that would be an almost impossible climb. Fence straddlers aren't winning a lot these days.

Harper’s vote had a lot to do with supporting the House Republican leadership, which he is increasingly gaining inclusion within. For him, voting with the Speaker was more about long term politics.

Cochran surprised me most in the Reid-McConnell deal. Not because he voted for it; he's voted similarly numerous times and most have come to expect such from him. My surprise was in his floor speech prior to the cloture vote by the Senate.

Cochran hasn't risen to speak much lately so his timing now, on this issue and with a challenger announcing against him, was quite curious. The senior Senator said:

"I'm optimistic that soon we will be able to enact legislation to reopen our government and affirm the world's long-standing confidence in our financial stability and system of democracy. The current situation is an unfortunate by-product of our sometimes discordant form of government, which at this time happens to be divided between our two parties. Despite the challenges of recent weeks, I hope this experience demonstrates to the Senate, to the other body, and to the administration that the nation is best served when we work together. If we allow our current hardships to pass on only to immediately entrench and get ready for the next crisis, we will be wasting an opportunity to extract a positive outcome from these last difficult weeks."


The 76 year old Cochran may have some spirit left in him yet, which points to a run for reelection. Stacey Pickering and Delbert Hosemann will not enter the fray if that's the case.

With Chris McDaniel entering the U.S. Senate race today, Cochran’s speech sets the tone, though I doubt Cochran had McDaniel in mind when he made that speech. Cochran has made similar remarks many times before. McDaniel will try and use Cochran’s vote for the compromise to capitalize on the “anti” sentiment that’s out there. The question is how shrill will he be and is he willing to be nasty to try and make his point?

It’s an almost impossible political box. Be too nice and you look like a sellout and you don’t appropriately rile your “anti” base. Be too mean and you look like a bully especially against someone who is as popular in Mississippi historically as Thad Cochran.

The 2014 dance begins today in Mississippi.

Posted October 17, 2013 - 9:30 am

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