As Election Day 2010 approaches, the winds of change seem to be blowing hard against incumbent and establishment candidates nationwide for Congress. Mississippi appears to be no different. In Mississippi’s two competitive House races, you are seeing incumbents attack challengers far more than touting their own legislative accomplishments. Those incumbents, Democrats Gene Taylor and Travis Childers, will have some help from outside groups and the DCCC to mirror and amplify their attacks on their challengers.
There are a few things that I see happning soon. Let’s look at each one.
In North Mississippi, Travis Childers the incumbent is clearly hitting the panic button. Other than touting the pro-life and pro-gun credentials that he shares with his challenger, Alan Nunnelee (R), he has been ignoring his stances on Stimulus (for) and Obamacare (opposing repeal) and attacking Nunnelee with some ads that have raised some questions in the media. Using anonymous comments on newspaper websites, he has tried to hit Nunnelee with being in support of a “fair tax”, for which there is apparently no paper trail on whatsoever. The Daily Journal, the Tate Democrat and the Commercial Dispatch have all been highly critical of that ad.
My sense is that Childers will give up on that in the coming days. As we put on YP today, there is a new independent expenditure from the DCCC that involves a godaddy.com purchase, a purchase of ad design from Obama’s media team and an ad buy. A new website will likely be touted with lots of “hit piece” info on it. The DCCC will likely be cranking up a new ad and Childers will likely follow suit and change the direction of the attack in the last few weeks. The DCCC has a very history of very sketchy tactics in MS-1, especially the closer it gets to the end of a campaign. There is candidly not much they won’t do or say. Nunnelee is likely going to be the subject of a blistering attack that will just coincidentally come 30-40 days before an election with info never being heard of for the 16 years of state legislative service since he took over Roger Wicker’s Mississippi Senate seat.
The question is how well will it play with voters, particularly disaffected independent and Tea Party voters. Jobs and the economy are the main issues out there, and it will be interesting to see how much if any time the Childers campaign or the DCCC on his behalf touts the success of Obamacare and Stimulus to rebuilding Mississippi jobs. With the extension of Bush Tax Cuts now likely bottled up by the Democratic leadership till after the election, Childers will likely “huff and puff” about that, but will ultimately run up against the first vote he made in 2008 . . . the Speaker vote.
Speaking of the Speaker, I believe that Childers will find a way to put his future support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in some question with voters. I don’t think he will come out and say that he’s changed his mind and won’t vote for her, but I do think he’ll say something like, “I’m not sure who I will support for Speaker if re-elected, or who is even running for that matter”. He won’t be able to outright flip-flop on her, but it will be an increasing issue come closer to the election.
The bottom line . . . if this race becomes about the policies and success Childers has had in Washington, he’ll lose. His only hope will be to really beat up on Nunnelee to try and get voters to focus on something other than jobs and Obamacare. Using sketchy data seems to be the way his camp is intent on doing it.
Incumbent Gene Taylor (D) has his hands full with a real challenger, Republican Steven Palazzo. Taylor is not quite as vulnerable on votes in that he was a no on Stimulus and a no on Obamacare and an early defector on encouraging repeal. However, it’s a nasty year for incumbents and it doesn’t look like Taylor is taking anything to chance.
He is going after Palazzo and will likely continue to do so in the coming weeks. I doubt there will be much in the way of an independent expenditure to hit Palazzo, but if there is, it would be a great sign for the challenger. Waters will be tested in the coming days and the results of that should say a lot.