Today, the Mississippi Senate Elections Committee made two incredibly bold moves.

First, they killed the House redistricting plan. House Democrats like Alice Harden are toting the messaging of the House by saying,

“Usually the House works on their plan and the gentleman’s agreement is the Senate will accept that plan. The worst thing that has happened to us as legislators is for us not to adopt a plan that we agree on and then have a three-judge panel draw us a plan.

That seems to be a place that Senate Republicans now seem ok with. The House plan was crafted to (1) make about 35 House Republicans slightly better off while at the same time assuring (2) that a Republican House Speaker was an impossibility. With 9 Democrats and 1 Republican on the House Redistricting Committee, it was little wonder that the House plan seemed content to achieving the ultimate end of keeping Democrats in power. The way this was done was by overpacking (putting above standard deviations) of voters in Republican districts and underpacking (putting below standard deviations) of voters in Democratic districts. By some estimates, there are about 65,000 Mississippi voters that would essentially be disenfranchised and that would likely mean a swing of maybe up to 6 seats.

The second major bit of news was that the Senate approved the map drawn by Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant (instead of the one drawn by Elections Committee Chair Terry Burton). This is a major step out for Bryant, but Bryant seems content that he has the higher ground to push his plan and oppose the House plan. Bryant seems to be saying, “We are just not going to do it the way we’ve done it in the past.” The worst case scenario (which is not that bad for Republicans) is that there will be two elections. The first would be in 2011 in the same districts. Given that the vote in the House was 62-60 in 2008 for Speaker, Republicans would feel reasonably assured that a liberal Democrat couldn’t win the Speaker’s chair in 2011 even under the current districts and that their worst case is a moderate Democrat that will include Republican committee chairs. Under this scenario (assuming both houses can’t come together and agree), a federal judge panel would draw those districts and they would most likely try and keep the lines as close to the current ones as possible while still accounting for population shifts and protecting the integrity of minority districts.

Republicans seemed to have found their backbone. If Bryant can pull this off, it’s a major leadership coup for him. House Republicans were talking about civility for 8 weeks while House Democrats were prepping to royally screw them. Republicans in the House now seem to have figured out the deal and I think will galvanize and ensure either (1) gridlock to force a judicial panel or (2) Democrats come back to them with a much more conciliatory plan that puts the Speaker’s chair in play (unlikely).

There are some other more far-fetched scenarios, but I think that both sides seem intent on mutually assured destruction and that this will likely go to the courts. So here are my predictions.

1. One word . . . GRIDLOCK.
2. We will have two elections. One in 2011 under current districts and one in 2012 under redrawn districts.
3. You are about to hear some messaging hysteria, particularly from the Democrat side. First, they’ll attack Republicans saying that they had this “gentleman’s agreement”. That won’t go far. And after both sides have said publicly that Redistricting isn’t about race, I think you are going to hear Democrats attack Republicans who don’t support the House redistricting plans on being insensitive on that very issue.
4. There will be lawsuits everywhere. Candidates will file lawsuits, parties will file lawsuits and citizens will file lawsuits. It will be a good time to be an election legal specialist in Mississippi until about Christmas.

Within the next 48 hours, the Senate plan will hit the Senate floor. Expect some Democrat Senator to try and append the House plan to Bryant’s plan. That’s the critical vote. If Senate conservatives hold serve on that amendment vote, Republicans will likely stay on offense.

Stay tuned.