There were two top-billed election contests today in Mississippi. The biggest was MS-01 Republican primary for the chance to run against Travis Childers in November. My predictions were that this race would follow the money raised in proportion, which is almost exactly what happened.
State Senator Alan Nunnelee finished the race with just over 50% and most importantly avoided a runoff. A very game challenger in former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross made a run of it with a late charge and wound up in the mid-30% range. Former pundit Angela McGlowan finished a distant third (as predicted) in the mid-teens.
Though I am absolutely sure that those in media and Democrat circles will frame this contest as Nunnelee looking weak by “squeaking” through the primary, the real story is quite different. Nunnelee slyly conserved cash and effort keeping his supporters and staff focused on the real challenge – unseating Travis Childers in November. This was only the warmup and getting across the line with minimal exposure and maximum cash was the politically smart play for Nunnelee. He didn’t trip, stumble or cause himself any grief. Though a candidate’s natural instincts would be to take no chances and “run up the score” in a primary that was even somewhat competitive, Nunnelee played it cool and is obviously getting good advice from campaign manager Morgan Baldwin.
In MS-04, State Rep. Steve Palazzo handily dispatched Joe Tegerdine as I predicted he would. Tegerdine had no real organized, native base to work from. Tegerdine is a good guy and obviously has some talent, but there’s something to be said for political inertia. Palazzo had it. Tegerdine didn’t.
Nunnelee and Palazzo now face the same challenge – unifying their party behind them. Palazzo should have a pretty easy time of it on the coast. His hill for November is a little steeper to climb and Rep. Gene Taylor will be a very tough opponent. Nunnelee may have a little harder time unifying his base in the politically eclectic first district, but he has a more beatable opponent in November in freshman Rep. Travis Childers. Henry Ross is a gentleman and I have no doubts that he will fall in line and endorse and help Nunnelee in any way he can to beat Childers.
Angela McGlowan is a different story. Given the instability in her campaign and in the comments throughout, she might ask for a recount at this point . . . who knows. However, it will be incumbent on her to get on board and work to help unseat Childers by endorsing Nunnelee and helping any way she can. That endorsement needs to come fast, forcefully and without equivocation. When she’s on message, she can be effective. Otherwise, she will join Greg Davis and Glenn McCullough who will forever wander the larger elective wilderness for their inability to get on the same page after a contentious primary in 2008 that unquestionably cost Republicans that seat.
Though turnout was low, tonight was a good night for conservatives in Mississippi. Just remember the real lesson. You heard it here first.
November’s gonna get interesting.