BOBBY HARRISON: Slight voting shifts, no definitive message

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Nate Silver, the statistician and author of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEighty blog, has risen to legendary status after accurately predicting all 50 states in this year’s presidential elections.
Four years ago he was correct on 49 of 50 states so the guy is pretty good. He is no flash in the pan. He basically also predicted the national percentage in the presidential election this year.
But Sliver, a self-described nerd, is not infallible.
At least he was not in one recent tweet that identified Alaska, Louisiana, New Jersey and Rhode Island as the four states where Obama did better this year than he did in 2008.
Obama also did better in Mississippi this year than he did four years ago – albeit not by much.
In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain won 56.2 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Obama – then a United States senator from Illinois. Four years ago McCain got 724,579 votes to 554,662 for Obama.
On Nov. 6, Obama garnered 8,287 more votes than he did in 2008, according to certified results from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office. In 2012, Romney had 710,746 votes or 13,833 less than McCain got in 2008.
Or put another way, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, got 53.7 percent of the vote to 43.8 percent for the incumbent president.
What does that mean? Who knows, but it does not mean that Mississippi is running the risk of switching from red to blue in almost a wink of the eye, such as Virginia did in 2008 when it voted Democratic in a presidential election for the first time since 1964.
The last time Mississippi voted Democratic was in 1976 for fellow Southerner and former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter.
By the same token Mississippi’s 2012 presidential election results could mean that as Mississippi’s minority population grows it could become less Republican if those demographic groups continue to vote Democratic.
The bottom line is that a little less than 6,000 fewer people voted for the two major party candidates in Mississippi in 2012 than voted in 2008 yet Obama got more votes this time than he got four years ago.
He picked up votes in the state’s most populous county – Hinds, which is a Democratic stronghold. Obama also picked up votes in the state’s fastest growing county –DeSoto, though it continues to be a Republican stronghold.
In Lee County in Northeast Mississippi, the president also gained votes. In 2008, McCain toppled Obama 22,694 to 12,021 while in 2012 Romney won 22,415 to 12,563.
Besides Lee, Romney captured Alcorn, Benton, Calhoun, Itawamba, Lafayette, Monroe, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo and Union counties in Northeast Mississippi.
The president won Chickasaw, Clay, Marshall and Oktibbeha counties.
No county in Northeast Mississippi switched political parties from 2008 to 2012.
But interestingly, in the 16 counties that the Daily Journal identifies as the Northeast Mississippi region, overall Obama performed worse in 2012 than he did in 2008.
In 2008, McCain garnered 132,967 votes in the region to 81,929 for Obama or a vote difference of 51,038. Four years later, Obama lost to Romney by 53,035 votes – 129,570 votes to 76,535 votes.
Does that mean that Northeast Mississippi is becoming slightly more Republican at a time when the state is getting marginally more Democratic?
Who knows, but gains for Republicans in Northeast Mississippi do match the trend in recent state elections. Ronnie Musgrove, the state’s last Democratic governor, won in 1999 in large part by doing well in Northeast Mississippi.
In 2003, Republican Haley Barbour wrestled Northeast Mississippi, and at the same time the Governor’s Mansion, away from Musgrove.
In the two elections since then, Northeast Mississippi has been solidly in the Republicans’ camp in gubernatorial elections, though in 2007, it is interesting to note that Prentiss County went for Democrat John Arthur Eaves Jr. against Barbour.
In 2011, Prentiss was in the Republican Party’s camp as then-Lt. Gov Phil Bryant defeated Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree for the right to succeed Barbour.
It also is of some interest that during the same time frame much of the region’s legislative delegation has gone from Democratic to Republican, though there are still some formidable Democratic lawmakers hailing from Northeast Mississippi.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@journalinc.com.