BOBBY HARRISON: Republicans appear to lack confidence in candidates

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – To have such momentum in Mississippi politics, the state Republican Party does not have much faith in its own candidates.
The state Republican Party and Republicans in the Legislature are opposed to the redistricting plan submitted and passed on the House floor by the Democratic leadership of that chamber.
Republicans say they oppose the plan because it is not fair.
To be more precise, they oppose the plan because they do not believe enough Republicans can be elected under the proposal to choose a Republican speaker in 2012.
That is the real issue and that is fine. Republicans’ job is to win elections just as it is the job of Democrats.
But the truth of the matter is that Republicans reveal by raising such a stink that they do not have faith in their ability to elect candidates in Mississippi – despite their enormous success in recent years.
Currently, there are 69 Democrats and 53 Republicans in the Mississippi House.
In general terms, whites in Mississippi vote Republican in statewide and national elections by wide margins. And African-Americans vote Democratic in those elections by an even wider margin
The House leadership plan, which was approved last week, has 44 black majority districts. Generally, they would be viewed as Democratic districts, though there is no guarantee.
That, after all, is why we have elections.
But for the sake of argument, say all 44 black majority districts are won by Democrats. There is an equal number of predominantly white districts, especially in suburbs in places like Madison, Rankin and DeSoto counties, where a Republican is virtually assured of election.
That leaves primarily rural white districts – areas where Republicans should think they have a better than even chance.
Many of these House districts currently are held by Democrats. They have for been for years.
But in other elections, such as for governor, president and for U.S. Congress, Republicans have done well in those districts.
In 2007, for example, 27 white Democrats were elected in House districts where Republican Gov. Haley Barbour defeated Democrat John Arthur Eaves.
If the Republicans had won a majority of those districts, they would have won the House and would have elected the next speaker.
Sure, the plan presented by the House Democratic leadership is – surprise – advantageous to Democrats – just as both plans currently being considered by the Senate are beneficial to Republicans.
But the House plan does not throw Republican incumbents in districts with each other. Remarkably, the plan only merges two sets of incumbents. And to partially offset that, two new likely Republican districts have been created in fast-growing DeSoto County.
Now don’t get me wrong. Republicans have the right to use every parliamentary procedure to try to block the enactment of the House plan if that is what they think they should do.
And that effort runs the real risk of throwing the redistricting fight into the courts where it is likely that the state will have to pay for in 2012 a second consecutive year of legislative elections.
That could be the costly result of the fight over redistricting.
But it should be remembered that under the plan they are fighting, they could elect a Republican speaker.
It would not guarantee a Republican speaker, but it would give Republicans a fighting chance.
And in such fights in recent years, Republicans have been doing pretty well.

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