What if Mike Moore doesn’t run for governor in 2007?
I don’t expect that to happen. By 2007, the former state attorney general will have been out of public office for four years and will be 54 years old. If he’s going to get back into politics, the gubernatorial race in 2007 may be his best chance.
But if he doesn’t, his absence leaves Democrats without their heavyweight to take on incumbent Haley Barbour. Barbour is vulnerable, but even so, he’ll be able to pull from a very deep pocketbook. Beating him will still require an able candidate.
Secretary of State Eric Clark would be crazy to run. So would Moore’s replacement, Attorney General Jim Hood. Neither have the charisma nor the fundraising ability to stand toe-to-toe with Barbour. Former Secretary of State Dick Molpus? I wish.
The race for the nomination, I think, would come down to two former governors — Ronnie Musgrove and Ray Mabus.
Musgrove is a weak speaker with lukewarm loyalty from statewide Democrats and a history of lackluster campaigning. Still, he was governor just two years ago, and he probably still enjoys healthy name recognition. And weak though he was in 2003, he lost to Barbour by only seven points.
It’s been widely known for months that Mabus wants his old job back, but until the Neshoba County Fair last month, I didn’t consider him to be a legitimate contender. I do now. His sharp attack against Barbour’s record on education and the economy seemed to set the table for a bread-and-butter campaign, which is what Democrats need to win in red states. Mabus is also a much better speaker than Musgrove, and my guess is that he could raise more money as well.
In a Moore-less race, my money is on Mabus. If he does get the 2007 nomination, he’s certainly not a slam dunk against Barbour like Moore would be — but I definitely think he’s capable of winning.