Wednesday and Thursday at the Neshoba County Fair for politicos is like hunting over a baited field . . . it’s unfair. There’s just too much scuttlebutt to take in at one time. Here are a few observations from the week that was.

The Governor
Though some would contend that the Governor has been off on his game in the last year or so, he is still really good on the stump. Haley showed great compusure after being interrupted by a hysterical Democratic operative from the Coast, who is managing the Joel Gill (D) campaign for MS-03. Linda St. Martin showed the hysteria that only a true believer can manage. Had she been a family member of Adrienne Klasky, I might think differently about her display. However, she came off as a shrill political hack who did it only for show. I doubt she liked the Governor much anyway before his speech, so her outburst, though not predicted was typical. Being a coast resident, I guess she joins her candidate Joel Gill as someone who cannot vote for Joel Gill (as he doesn’t live in the district either) in the upcoming election in MS-03.

courtesy of Keith Plunkett at the Flora Harvester

Gregg Harper
Harper’s organizational skills are super impressive. He had a great crowd and a great event on Thursday at the fair. I always thought that the sexiest play in football was when the quarterback kneeled on the football to run the clock out. Harper is taking a Steve Spurrier-like strategy to run up the score. He is improving on the stump and is doing the things he needs to do to be successful in Washington.

Wicker and Musgrove
Being the showcase matchup of the political season, I thought there would be more fireworks in this matchup on the stump. Though admittedly it wasn’t Musgrove’s home crowd, Musgrove was not as sharp as I have seen him. Wicker is never flashy and this week’s showing at Neshoba was no exception. He was well organized there and had lots of supporters. My expectations for a fiery stump speech were low, but Wicker was steady and made a compelling case for remaining a US Senator. From his speech . . .

You know, when Ronnie ran against Haley, he spent the entire race beating up on Haley and telling us what a bad person Haley was and what a bad governor he’d turn out to be. Now, we know how that turned out! Ronnie Musgrove had a chance to be a good governor. He let us down, and we gave him his walking papers. Now, he’s running again to prove that we are wrong and he is right, but this race is about bigger issues.

His poll numbers improving this week show that the money he is spending (particularly on the Coast) is having some effect and that the more he is exposed to the public, the more support he gets. He has opened up some daylight in this race, but anything can still happen inside this last 100 days. Musgrove will fight to the end, and this race will heat up shortly as they will start exchanging barbs over the public airwaves.

Childers vs. Davis
Travis Childers had some folks there. Though not his crowd and not in his district, his folks were out beating the sawdust for money and support. Though Greg Davis might have been at the Fair at other times, his absence on Wednesday and Thursday was conspicuous. I thought, if nothing more than for some press attention, that he’d be there for sure. If he was, I didn’t see him . . . and I looked.

Republican Bench Strength
Treasurer Tate Reeves and Auditor Stacey Pickering both had really good stump appearances. Reeves was fiery against the legacy of debt and mismanagement that Ronnie Musgrove left Mississippi. He certainly did not mince words. Pickering is scoring some political victories as well. Keep a sharp eye in the next 60 days over the lawsuit he has to recover the $14,000,000 in fees given to Joey Langston in the MCI case. That would be a huge win for Pickering going forward. Both Pickering and Reeves have tremendous political upside and continue to toil in the trenches and do good work. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney also had good showings on the stump.

Shawn O’Hara
No one can scatter a political crowd like Shawn O’Hara (democratic opponent to . . . well, everyone he can run against . . . in this case Senator Thad Cochran). He spoke after Wicker & Musgrove. It was as if someone yelled “Fire!” in the pavillion. If certain people have the political “it” factor, O’Hara apparently has the antidote.

Governor in 2011
Though there were a few names tossed around for the Governor’s race, there are two or three at the top of the list. My personal view is that Phil Bryant will definitely run after Haley’s term, and he would unquestionably be the odds-on favorite. He is one of the smoothest political speaker on the stump that Mississippi has produced in a generation and has done a good job so far as Lt. Governor. Several folks were pushing former Lt. Governor Amy Tuck’s name around. A Phil vs. Amy showdown in a Republican primary for governor is something that I would view as unlikely, but some key folks were caught up in that idea. On the Democratic side, AG Jim Hood’s name (as the sole remaining Democrat elected official) was pushed around as was the traditional trial lawyer candidates, John Arthur Eaves and newly minted MS Democratic Chair Jamie Franks.

The Free Dickie phenomenon
In a bit of shameless promotion, Free Dickie was a big hit. I certainly got a few sneers from “true believers” and a couple from conservatives and press folks that didn’t get the joke. But, by and large, Free Dickie was a hit and it was a hell of a lot of fun, if nothing else. Chancellor Khayat was even given a Free Dickie shirt (not by me). No word on whether or not he will be framing it or using it to wash Dickie’s jet and hangar (that’s apparently for sale).

Some of the most fun was just going from cabin to cabin. It’s unlike anywhere I have ever been, and I always enjoy that time. My particular thanks goes to Sid and Lelani Salter. They always have a great spread and it is ground zero for political and press visitors. Part of that is due to unmatched hospitality. The other part is the recognition of the political commentary institution that Salter is in Mississippi. Rarely does a half hour go by on his front porch where some elected or former elected official isn’t paying their respects. Though I don’t always agree with Salter, the respect he gets is well earned. Also, thanks to Pete Perry who puts on a great spread every year. There are lots more, but I wanted to thank them both personally.

The next 100 days will be a lot of fun. Musgrove vs. Wicker, McCain vs. Obama, the continuing saga of Dickie Scruggs et. al, and maybe even some new stuff will all be coming down the pike. I continue to be eternally grateful for the words of support for YallPolitics I received at the Fair. The site has exceeded my wildest expectations and taken on a life of it’s own, and I always want to take time to thank all of you who agree with me and even the misguided few who disagree with me. The success of what we are doing here is attributable to all of you.