By NEMS Daily Journal
Two visits to Northeast Mississippi this week by viable presidential primary contenders lengthen the list of presidential hopefuls and past presidents who have thought our region, its voters (and its news coverage market) important enough for in-person appearances.
Rick Santorum this afternoon visits Hawkeye Industries, and Thursday afternoon Newt Gingrich speaks at the Tupelo Furniture Market in a larger space capable of handling a crowd.
Both men are seeking votes – and as importantly for the present, GOP delegates – in the Mississippi primary March 13.
Neither Mitt Romney nor Ron Paul has announced campaign stops in Mississippi for before the primary.
High-profile campaign visits to Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi date at least to 1960, when former President Harry S. Truman campaigned for the John F. Kennedy- Lyndon B. Johnson ticket. The fairgrounds speech drew a large crowd, but the Democratic Kennedy-Johnson ticket lost the state to a slate of unpledged electors backed by the Ross Barnett political machine.
Other high-profile campaign appearances include:
* In spring 1968, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey spoke at the University of Mississippi.
* In 1972, R. Sargent Shriver, George McGovern’s running mate on the Democratic ticket, campaigned in Tupelo.
* Jimmy Carter, running for the Democratic nomination campaigned twice in Northeast Mississippi in 1976, eventually winning the nomination and the presidency.
* In 1984, Walter Mondale, running as the Democratic nominee, spoke in Tupelo.
* In 1987, Vice President George H.W. Bush, already a probable candidate for the 1988 Republican nomination, campaigned for GOP gubernatorial nominee Jack Reed Sr. Bush was elected president in 1988.
* In 1988, George W. Bush made a campaign stop in Tupelo in behalf of his father.
* In 1992, Pat Buchanan, seeking the GOP nomination, campaigned in Tupelo and the region.
* Former President Bill Clinton campaigned in Tupelo in 2008 for his wife, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was seeking the Democratic nomination.
* Candidates Barack Obama and John McCain appeared at the University of Mississippi in Oxford in 2008 for the first official debate of the fall campaign.
Primary competition drives turnout, as illustrated in 2008 when the Democratic contest between Clinton and eventual victor Barack Obama created high interest on the Democratic side.
A similar situation could develop this year in the Republican primary, where Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul all remain in the contest. Mississippi and Alabama both vote March 13.
Any registered voter in Mississippi can cast a ballot in the Republican primary next week, which will also include congressional and senatorial races. This is Mississippi voters’ shot to help shape the fall campaign.