Democrats scored a remarkable upset victory on Tuesday in a special Congressional election in this conservative Southern district, sending a clear signal of national problems ahead for Republicans in the fall.
The Democrat, Travis Childers, a local courthouse official, pulled together a coalition of blacks, who turned out heavily, and old-line “yellow dog” Democrats, to beat his Republican opponent, Greg Davis, the mayor of Southaven, a Memphis suburb. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, the vote was 54 percent for Mr. Childers to 46 percent for Mr. Davis.
Merle Black, a Southern politics expert at Emory University, called a Democratic victory potentially “a huge upset, and an indication of a terrible year ahead for the Republicans.” He added, “In theory, this should be an easy win for them.”
Mimicking a strategy that proved successful in 2006, Democrats ran staunch conservatives in both this and the Louisiana race, forcing their Republican opponents to attack national party figures as surrogates.
Both Mississippi candidates depicted themselves as down-the-line conservatives on social issues, and there was little difference between them on abortion and gun rights: staunchly against the first, and for the second.
In the end, tying the white Democrat to the black presidential candidate may have helped Mr. Childers more than it hurt him, as campaign aides reported heavy black turnout, heavier than in a vote three weeks ago when he came within 400 votes of winning.