BOBBY HARRISON: Miss. Democrats appear headed for the cliff in 2011

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The elections are over, except for the recounts, controversy and endless analysis and over-analysis.
Now it’s time in Mississippi to get ready – gulp – for the next round of elections just around the corner.
Mississippi could be dubbed the state where we alway have the opportunity to vote. That does not mean we always vote, but we have that option.
Our state elections, including for all statewide offices, legislative offices and county posts, do not come in the same year as the federal elections where presidents are elected or during the mid-term elections, which we just went through where members of Congress and some U.S. senators are elected.
Then, in the other year of the four-year cycle, many municipalities are electing their government officials.
In other words, elections in Mississippi are just about a yearly event.
It will not be long after the Christmas-New Year’s holidays before people are qualifying to run for everything from governor to constable. Party primaries are scheduled for Aug. 2.
Plans already are being made, money is being raised and people are very subtly – and at times not too subtly – campaigning for state and county-level offices.
A study should be done to determine what impact the steady stream of election money being spent in the state has on the economy. Electioneering might be one of most profitable industries.
Regardless, next year’s state elections could be a watershed event for Mississippi and more specifically for the Mississippi Republican Party. And I am not talking about the potential of Republican Gov. Haley Barbour running for president, though, that remains a possibility.
What I am talking about is, if the current anger persists, next year could be a bad year for Democrats in Mississippi.
Mississippi has been steadily flowing into the Republican camp since the 1960s.
The state for a long time has voted Republican in presidential politics, but for the most part local elected folks still run and are elected as Democrats.
That anger will not persist on the national level to the degree we have seen for the past one and one-half years. By the time the 2012 presidential elections roll around, the country will again be close to 50-50. The Republican nominee and Barack Obama will be battling to win a few key states that will determine who the next president will be.
Remember, Democrats have won the most votes in four of the last five presidential elections.
While the country will return to normalcy where the Republicans and Democrats battle on almost equal terms, the anger of the past few months could be enough to send Democrats over the cliff in Mississippi for a time. Regardless of what happened in Tuesday’s elections in the state, and as I write this, the outcome has not been determined, the anger in the state by a sizable portion of the electorate against national Democrats is real.
When Mississippi elects a new governor and new Legislature next year that anger could still be there.
Republicans already have been making progress in the state. Seven of the eight statewide officials are Republicans. The recent events could speed up that Republican progress even more.
Despite Mississippi’s steady shift to the Republican Party and despite the best efforts of Barbour, viewed as one of the top political strategists in the nation, the Democrats, led by a farmer from Prentiss County, have held on to power in the Mississippi House. And Democrats hold a numerical advantage in the Senate, though, for all practical purposes Republicans control the Senate.
When one considers the money and efforts that have been thrown against Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, the fact that he and his party have held onto the House has been nothing short of extraordinary.
But can legislative Democrats continue to hold back that Republican momentum in the state in 2011 when Mississippians go to the polls again and can they make up any of their shortcomings in their paltry number of statewide elected officials?
Those could be the most interesting question concerning our next round of elections.
But relax, because in Mississippi, elections questions do not go unanswered long because we don’t go long without an election.
Contact Bobby Harrison, the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief at bobby.harrison@djournal.com, or call (601) 353-3119.