The matchup between Roger Wicker and Ronnie Musgrove is the first competitive U.S. Senate race in Mississippi in 20 years. This is a state that changes senators very rarely; we’d had only two transitions in the last 65 years before Gov. Haley Barbour appointed Wicker last Dec. 31 to replace Trent Lott.

In spite of more than seven months in the Senate, Wicker is still not as well known statewide as Musgrove, who held statewide office for eight years -four years as lieutenant governor and then another four as governor. We forget up here in the 1st District, where we’ve heard about and seen Wicker regularly for 14 years, that he’s had minimal media and personal exposure in other parts of the state during all but a few months of that time.

Of course there are downsides to being well known, and Musgrove certainly has his detractors. But on balance, the name ID is a positive for him.

The other element that raises Musgrove’s chances to pull off a Democratic upset in a Republican stronghold is the anticipated huge turnout of black voters for Barack Obama, who would be expected to vote overwhelmingly for Musgrove.

Someone could eventually run away with this thing, but don’t count on it. This rare event has the look of a down-to-the-wire donnybrook.