Political winds, like March’s storm systems in the South, shif

Political winds, like March’s storm systems in the South, shift unpredictably and with dire results for some candidates.

The Republican presidential race three weeks ago looked as if it would need the mostly Southern Super Tuesday primary March 12 to sift out the field. A big political storm from the high plains of Kansas swept eight primaries in Junior Tuesday this week, placing Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole indisputably sprinting toward a lock on the GOP nomination. Dole was expected to win Thursday’s New York primary by an overwhelming margin margin, adding to his momentum leading to Super Tuesday.

Mississippi’s Republican and Democratic convention delegates are up for grabs in the primary. President Clinton is virtually unopposed on the Democratic ballot. Dole would seem to have an advantage, especially with the withdrawal of Southern favorite son Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Alexander, a former Tennessee governor supported by many long-time Mississippi GOP leaders, endorsed Dole Wednesday when he stopped his campaign.

The question mark for Dole, as it has been across the South, is Pat Buchanan’s strength. Mississippi’s voters, many of them religiously conservative, could give Buchanan more reason to carry his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in San Diego.

Dole, who has scheduled a campaign appearance in Tupelo at about 2 p.m. Saturday, could weaken Buchanan’s voice with a solid victory in Mississippi and other states where politically conservative Christians have significant influence. The Rev. Donald Wildmon, a United Methodist minister who heads the Tupelo-based American Family Association, is a national co-chair of the Buchanan campaign.

Mississippians, rather than lose interest in the Super Tuesday primary, which also includes contested congressional primaries, should make a stronger commitment to participate. The voting Tuesday, especially in the Republican primary, can confirm U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s declaration that Dole is nominated, or it can affirm the strength of the Religious Right in presidential race. The only way supporters of any candidate or persuasion can lose is by not voting.

Democrats, like Republicans, only weaken their party and its issues if they don’t vote. The Democrats’ decline as the dominant presidential party of the South and in Mississippi won’t be helped by a weak primary turnout.

Voting is democracy’s power, and every voter’s choice is equal. Numbers make the difference. Low voter turnouts create disproportionate power for those who vote, particularly when turnout is measured as a mere fraction of those eligible and registered.

Make a commitment to vote Tuesday in the primary of your choice. The votes Tuesday have a direct impact on the choices we’ll have in November’s general election.

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