In what can only be termed as an absolute about-face, the Mississippi Democratic Party has developed and paid for a direct mail piece that now officially ties US Senate Candidates Ronnie Musgrove and Erik Fleming to Democrat Presidential nominee Barack Obama. Musgrove and Fleming are running against incumbent US Republican Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, respectively.

For Fleming, this is no big deal, but for Musgrove especially, this is a strange turn of events. For months, Ronnie Musgrove has portrayed himself as a “pro-life, pro-gun” conservative. On many occasions, he has been asked about who he supports for President. On more than one occasion, he has said that he plans to support his “party’s nominee” (Obama), but has been reluctant to give the soundbite for fear that he’d be tied to Obama who is trailing in Mississippi polls significantly. This would seem to be a straight bet that Obama will win Mississippi and that he alone can pull Musgrove across the finish line.

Even as recently as mid-October, Musgrove qualified his support for Obama in a Clarion Ledger Editorial Board interview.

Ronnie Agnew – Governor, have you endorsed Barack Obama, and what do you think . . . how is he going to help you . . . or hurt you?
Ronnie Musgrove – eh eh Everybody knows that Barack Obama is not nearly as conservative as I am. I’m a Mississippi Democrat. Pro Gun. Pro Life. But we’ve got to have a change in Washington, and I believe He is more likely to achieve that and that’s why I am voting for him.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The evidence is clear that Musgrove has been avoiding any direct ties to Obama. Musgrove sat out the Democratic National Convention where Obama was nominated for “campaign reasons”. This phenomenon was also mentioned in a Washington Wire story . . .

Musgrove himself was reticent to discuss increased black turnout from Obama’s candidacy, mentioned only new youth voters when asked about Obama’s effect on turnout in the African-American community and never specifically used Obama’s name. “When anyone can generate excitement for voting, I believe that’s good,” he said.

Political Science professor Dr. Marty Wiseman was quoted about this disconnect in August, where he said . . .

“Wicker can attach himself to McCain and Palin, but Musgrove has got to put a little distance between himself and the national ticket (Obama/Biden) — maybe a lot of distance — to get those white Democratic voters,” said Mississippi State University political science professor Marty Wiseman. “The tricky thing here is doing that while capitalizing on Obama’s coattails. If Ronnie doesn’t get huge turnout in the Delta, he’s sunk.”

Later Wiseman encapsulated Musgrove’s challenge in a New York Times piece.

“His dilemma is how to keep every one of those conservative whites and get all the Obama vote,” Dr. Wiseman said. “It’s not easy to do in a conservative state like Mississippi. He wouldn’t have a shot if it weren’t for Obama.”

This direct mail piece would seem to be a recognition to get out the vote and tie Obama voters in the Delta to Musgrove. However, the question remains . . . will this alienate rural self-styled conservatives who are decidedly pro-gun and pro-life? Will those yellow dog democrats be able to subordinate those concerns to vote for someone tied to Obama, who has an “F” rating from the NRA, a 100 score from NARAL Pro Choice America, and a 0 rating from Right to Life?

Time will tell, but it appears that the Mississippi Democrat Party and the Ronnie Musgrove campaign are willing to completely alienate social conservatives in a “all-in” bet that Barack Obama will win Mississippi.