Mississippi men take two paths

Two former Mississippi Democratic congressmen are eyeing returns to Congress, but they’re taking divergent paths to exploit divisions within the GOP to mount comebacks.

Democrat Travis Childers jumped into the Senate race on Friday, looking to take advantage of a contentious Republican primary election between Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Meanwhile, former Rep. Gene Taylor has switched parties to run as a Republican for his old seat against GOP Rep. Steven Palazzo, who beat him in 2010.

But if Childers and Mississippi Democrats are hoping to reverse the state’s sharp right turn, Taylor’s party switch is a signal of just how tough that will be.
“There’s been an erosion during the Reagan years, a further erosion during the Clinton years, and recently voter registration had actually swung to a majority calling themselves Republicans,” Taylor told The Hill when asked why he decided to run as a Republican in his old district.

Taylor previously said it was “impossible to win in this district as a Democrat.” Before he lost in 2010, he even tried to salvage his seat by promising he had voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), not President Obama, in the 2008 presidential race.

Mississippi Democrats are aiming to prove their onetime ally wrong. The state party is pouring resources into Project 1876, an effort to train activists in all of the state’s 1,876 precincts to make Mississippi a swing state by 2016, that they believe will bear fruit for the conservative Childers in November.

Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole said that effort, coupled with the voter file and resources provided by the Democratic National Committee’s Project Ivy data operation, would help develop the ground game a Democrat would need to win in the state.

“We’re not going to have an enthusiasm gap here. People are enthusiastic about the first chance we’ve had at winning a senate election since 1982,” Cole said.

The Hill
3/5/14