BOBBY HARRISON: Fair talk turns to presidential race

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Eight years ago former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour used a portion of his time at the political speakings at the historic Neshoba County Fair to talk about Taxachusetts.
Barbour’s delivery had that derisive tone only he could deliver. He spoke in that slow, straightforward Southern drawl of then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s liberal voting record as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and of that “bastion of conservatism, Boston, Taxachusetts.”
When the political speakings start at the Neshoba County Fair this morning, no doubt the state’s Republican leadership will be talking about the presidential election and will be derisive of Democratic President Barack Obama. But they will not be talking about Taxachusetts. After all, the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney is the former governor of Tax – err I mean – Massachusetts.
Irony of ironies, when Barbour, who is now a staunch Romney supporter, gave that speech at the Neshoba County Fair in the summer of 2004, Willard Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts and already was working on his signature achievement – legislation that would provide near universal health care for the citizens of his state and would become the model for the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that he promises to repeal if elected president.
It is safe to say that if Romney does not win this November, politicians from Massachusetts should abandon the idea of running for president for the foreseeable future. After all, Michael Dukakis, a former Massachusetts governor, was decidedly defeated by George H.W. Bush in 1988. Kerry lost a closer election in 2004 to the younger Bush.
Of course, in our history Massachusetts has had its fair share of presidents – John Kennedy, Calvin Coolidge and those Adams boys way back at he beginning of our nation. George H.W. Bush actually was born in Massachusetts, but he is more closely associated with Texas where he was elected to Congress.
Romney, of course, was born in Michigan where his father served as governor and also ran for president. But it is Massachusetts where he first ran for the U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy and later ran and won the governorship.
There will not be many close elections this November in Mississippi. State officials – other than judges – are not on the ballot. Because of that, the presidential election will be the topic of conversation at the Neshoba County Fair this week. Seven of the eight statewide elective officials in Mississippi are Republican, and many, if not all, will take a few minutes out of their allotted time to praise Romeny and/or criticize Obama.
Except for that rhetoric, expect a relatively quiet Neshoba County Fair political speakings. In Mississippi, there is a race for the U.S. Senate, but Republican incumbent Roger Wicker of Tupelo is not expected to be seriously challenged by Democrat Albert Gore of Starkville, a retired Army chaplain.
Gore, along with third party candidates Shawn O’Hara and Thomas Cramer will speak at the fair. Wicker is not scheduled to speak.
Mississippi’s four U.S. House members are expected to win re-election relatively easily in November.
Perhaps the most competitive race in Mississippi this November will be for a slot on the state Supreme Court from the Northern District. Richard “Flip” Phillips of Panola County and Josiah Coleman of Pontotoc County both are expected to run viable campaigns to replace incumbent George Carlson who is retiring.
Incumbent Chief Justice William Waller Jr. of the Central District and his challenger, state Rep. Earle Banks, D-Jackson, are the only Supreme Court justices scheduled to speak this week at the fair.
The Neshoba County Fair and the July 4 event at the Jacinto Courthouse in Rienzi are viewed as Mississippi’s two premier political speakings in an era where most successful candidates depend primarily on television, mass mailings and social media.
While the candidates still show great deference to these political speakings, most know the events can do little to help or hurt a campaign. At Neshoba, in particular, the crowds come not to be educated, but to show their support and, in most cases, a vast majority come to show support for the Republican candidate.
There will be a huge Republican tilt to the Neshoba County Fair during the political speakings. Mississippi politicians who go to the fair to praise Romney and/or bash Obama will not be picking up any converts. They will just be making those in attendance feel good – to boost their confidence.
A vast majority of those in attendance at the fair’s political speakings already dislike Obama and will tolerate Romney – even if he was the governor of Tax – err – Massachusetts.

Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at or call (601) 353-3119.

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