Memorial Day weekend is no picnic for three Republicans seeking their party’s nomination Tuesday.
As thousands of North Mississippians enjoy backyard cookouts and family reunions, Angela McGlowan, Alan Nunnelee and Henry Ross are trying to solidify their voting bases.
If no one wins the first primary outright, a June 22 runoff will decide which candidate faces Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville and several independent and minor-party candidates on the Nov. 2 ballot.
It’s the second contested GOP primary in two years, but it hasn’t been as destructive as the Greg Davis-Glenn McCullough showdown in 2008, says one national political observer.
“This cycle, the GOP primary has yet to see the level of animosity that came to define the 2008 race,” writes John McArdle of CQ-Roll Call. “In 2008, Childers won a stunning special election victory over Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, in part because wounds never healed after a divisive GOP primary.”
Whether Ross of Eupora and McGlowan of Oxford have been able to convincingly paint Tupeloan Nunnelee as the “incumbent” or career politician, as Ross describes him, is anybody’s guess with two days until the vote.
They’ve sought to capitalize on the national anti-incumbency mood and Tea Party members’ growing disenchantment with both political parties.
While Nunnelee generally has been considered the frontrunner, Ross’ campaign appears to have picked up steam in the past month weeks.
Some of Ross’ momentum is coming from a backlash this cycle against anyone connected to the party establishment.
Nunnelee is the pick of state and national GOP leaders.
His financial success was recognized recently when he gained “Young Gun” status with the National Republican Congressional Committee. His campaign has earned donations from the likes of NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, although Barbour’s brother, Jeppie, is managing Ross’ campaign.
This weekend, Nunnelee spokesman Morgan Baldwin says the campaign is continuing “a significant grassroots effort” of phone banks and door-to-door visits to turn out votes for Tuesday.
“We have already knocked on over 6,000 doors and called over 4,000 voters making sure they remember to vote next Tuesday,” Baldwin said at the end of last week. “Our focus is on turning out voters for Sen. Nunnelee.”
Ross spokesman Hunter Lipscomb said their campaign isn’t letting up, either.
“We are not resting this weekend and we are not taking a single vote for granted,” Lipscomb said Friday. “This is a spirited sprint to the finish and we know for a fact this is a horse race despite our being vastly outspent.”
The McGlowan campaign could not be reached for comment on its plans.
The latest Federal Election Commission reports show McGlowan nearly out of money, although her opponents still have substantial treasuries.
If no one gains 50 percent plus one Tuesday, the runoff will keep the top two GOP contenders busy for another three weeks.
It also will mean another three weeks that each one must spend campaign money instead of raising it for the general election against Childers, who reports nearly $705,000 in his war chest.
As to the outcome, CQ-Roll Call’s McArdle said the NRCC will be very embarrassed if well-backed, well-financed “Young Gun” Nunnelee is forced into a runoff.
“It would be a second embarrassment for the NRCC,” he said, pointing to the defeat of Vaughn Ward, one of the party’s top recruits, in last week’s Idaho primary.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal