By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour’s legacy blooms Tuesday with expanded Republican influence statewide, political observers predict.
“You’ll see a reverse turnout over 20 years ago when Kirk Fordice first ran for governor,” said Charlie Mitchell, a longtime political commentator and vice dean of the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media.
Mitchell said that’s because he expects a lot of conservative Democrats to vote in hotly contested GOP races statewide and locally, where many counties have seen party switches as Barbour’s influence and recruiting plans came to fruition.
The hottest statewide races pit Republicans against each other for governor, lieutenant governor and treasurer.
Democrats didn’t even field a candidate for the lieutenant governor’s faceoff in November.
Dr. Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute for Government at Mississippi State University, agrees.
“We definitely will see the Barbour effect on the nature of the turnout,” Wiseman said.
He’s heard predictions that the vote will split 50-50 GOP versus Democrat in the totals.
“I think that could happen,” he noted.
Eight years ago, Barbour’s first run for governor brought in a total 190,046 GOP voters against a relatively unknown opponent.
In the Democratic primary, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove took the lion’s share of 526,896 votes in a multi-candidate field.
The ongoing concern about the national debt debate also has taken some of the steam out of potential voters, they say.
“What’s happening in Washington trickles down even to school boards these days,” Mitchell said.
He predicts a statewide turnout lower than eight years ago, when Barbour’s name first appeared in the race for governor.
“It’s all happening in Washington and I think people sense it,” he speculates.
Wiseman said there’s so much attention swirling around national issues these days, “I feel like a prisoner in my own country.
“It used to be Mississippi against the rest of the world – now, it looks like the rest of the country has caught up with us.”
But Mitchell says national politics also gets credit for causing the party-choice reversal in Mississippi.
“There’s been a gradual shift toward the right, which was helped by President Obama’s election in 2008,” he said about the Democrat’s White House win.
It’s the political pendulum at work, moving to one side and then the other, Mitchell said. “We’ll see it Tuesday.”
In 2008, Mississippi posted nearly 1.8 million registered voters out of a statewide population of about 2.8 million.
For Northeast Mississippi, Lee County has the largest number at 53,000.
Lee County Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin reports absentee voting has been fairly slow, although her experience tells her it’s been slightly more Republicans than Democrats.
She says she’s ready for all possibilities Tuesday with 90,000 ballots printed in dozens of variations, depending on which precinct and which supervisor, legislative, justice court judge or constable district a voter lives in.
She’ll have sample ballots at precinct doors to help voters decide which primary they want to vote in before they get in line and possibly realize they’ve picked the wrong one.
More information on where to vote in today’s NEMS Daily Journal.