GRAY:Childers has political latitude on stimulus vote

In an interview with Daily Journal editors last week, Childers acknowledged that he had given potential Republican opponents in this ordinarily Republican-leaning district an opening to attack him. The National Republican Congressional Committee began the assault soon after Childers’ vote with a press release condemning it.

But the Booneville businessman and former Prentiss County chancery clerk now has an electoral track record that should cause any prospective opponents to take note. In 2008, he ran in a special election and runoff, a regular primary and runoff, and a general election – and got more votes than anybody else all five times.

Should anyone decide to run against him based on his stimulus vote, Childers said, “They better bring their lunch and their sleeping bag. I’m ready and I’m prepared.”

It’s not too hard to envision a 2010 race in the 1st District again being a focus of national political attention, as it was in 2008. It could well be a test case of the Democrats’ mid-term status in a swing district.

Congressional Republicans obviously have made the strategic decision of running against the Democrats next year on economic policy. Not a single GOP House member voted for the stimulus bill.

Whatever happens between now and next year, there will probably be enough wiggle room for the Republicans to say “we told you so” whether such a claim is justified or not. Given the depth, breadth and length of this recession, it may be late 2010 or beyond before things turn around noticeably, and the Democrats may be forced to play defense by talking about how much worse it would have been without the measures they passed.

Still, Childers is confident of his political staying power. He reasons that he ran a campaign in which his first priority was jobs for the 1st District and that unemployment in the district is now approaching Mississippi Delta levels, a situation few could have imagined not long ago. In spite of its flaws – and its enormous cost – the stimulus bill will help generate jobs and assist those without them. That’s the bottom line.

“I don’t believe the people who voted for me wanted me to go up there and do nothing,” he said. “I believe the working people have somebody they trust and they’ll stick with me.”

That trust is central to Childers’ success thus far. Somehow voters who wouldn’t align themselves with many others in his party in Washington believe he has their interests at heart. It’s not inconceivable that that trust could erode, but it’s not likely – at least anytime soon.

What has often been forgotten is that it was the social and cultural issues, as well as defense and national security concerns, that alienated white Mississippians from the national Democratic Party through the years.

Lloyd Gray
NE MS Daily Journal
2/23/9