Gray provides the Democrats with nothing — no fundraising, no ground game, no voter bloc and no need for Bryant to spend a bunch of money on his re-election. As one top Republican official told me Wednesday, “When Gray got elected, it was worth at least $1 million to (Republican attorney general nominee) Mike Hurst.” That’s the low-ball estimate of how much Bryant and his supporters will now be able to funnel into a Hurst campaign since it’s not needed at the top of the ticket.
Furthermore, Bryant now has a new legacy he can pursue full-time on the campaign trail: flipping the last statewide office held by a Democrat to the GOP. If he so chooses, Bryant can invite Hurst to join his campaign caravan and travel the state. The governor is extremely popular, he’s good on the stump and he can turn out voters. His having nothing to do in his own race is a tremendous problem for Democrats.
But it’s not just Hood who gets hurt here. Democrats were hoping to mount a serious challenge to taking back the House or, if not that, at least increasing their numbers to the point that they could possibly cut a deal with a compromise candidate for speaker, ousting Philip Gunn and hopefully picking up a few committee chairmen in the process. Without cover and assistance in building a ground game from the top, that is more far-fetched than ever.
In fact, it’s not a stretch to see GOP donors funneling an extra $1 million to the legislative fight instead of to Bryant, who doesn’t need it. The Mississippi Democratic Trust, the unofficial campaign arm of House Democrats, have a much tougher fight on their hands, the least of which are incumbent legislative Democrats who have been targeted by the GOP. These races just got a lot more interesting as well.