John Arthur Eaves Jr. got to celebrate early on primary night Tuesday as he was declared the easy winner of the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Haley Barbour in November’s election. But the easier part of the campaign is clearly over for Eaves, who now faces formidable odds in his race to unseat a governor who enjoys strong support in state public opinion polls.
Barbour’s approval ratings are high, bolstered by his visible role in recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina devastated communities along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast in 2005. Barbour’s Washington ties — as a past aide to President Ronald Reagan, Republican National Committee chairman and big-time lobbyist — helped him secure federal aid for Mississippi.