On a visit to Mississippi last weekend, I couldn’t help noticing that the impending election had many of my Democratic friends in a deeper funk than the Ole Miss football team (who embarrassed themselves again, this time against Auburn). Democrats had held a majority of the seats in the state’s congressional delegation (three of four) since Travis Childers won a special election in 2008 and held his seat in the general election later that year. This Democratic advantage was an anomaly, of course—Mississippi is that very deep red state at the bottom of your election map—and, although Childers was a conservative Democrat, his defeat this year at the hands of Republican Alan Nunnelee was more or less expected.
What was not expected was the very difficult time that Gene Taylor, the twenty-one-year incumbent from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was having in his race. Taylor’s district (which includes my hometown, Gulfport) is the sort for which Blue Dog Democrats were invented—very conservative, but not reflexively Republican, as Taylor’s career attested. His constituents smiled when Taylor said that he’d voted for John McCain in 2008, as they had overwhelmingly done themselves, and they approved his bucking his party by voting against the stimulus bill and health care reform. On the other hand, Taylor opposed free trade, and he was a fierce enemy of the big insurance companies, thoroughly Democratic positions that also generally pleased the district. Taylor catered to Mississippians’ hearty appetite for political pork, bringing home federal dollars for the Pascagoula shipyard, and for the state port in Gulfport. He was pro-gun, anti-abortion, and loved the military, which is why, before this year, his closest race was an eighteen-point victory. Recently, his vote totals were in the seventy-per-cent range.
The New Yorker