SID SALTER: Midterm congressional election ‘tea’ almost brewed

The 2010 midterm election “tea” is almost brewed for what is being billed as possibly the most significant realigning election in Congress since 1994.
The emergence of the tea party, so-called “patriot groups” and other independent or third party candidates has raised expectations for both voter turnout and voter enthusiasm among conservative voters.
Conversely, there have been growing national political prognostications of a festering “enthusiasm gap” among more liberal voters.
Yet one obvious commonality exists in the electorate in 2010 – political support is extremely polarized as conservative voters search for the most conservative candidates possible while many liberal voters believe candidates they supported in 2008 – principally President Barack Obama – have strayed from campaign promises and tried to govern too much from the center on key issues like the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and on “public option” in health care reform.
Here’s one political observer’s opinions on how Mississippi’s congressional elections appear to be trending as Nov. 2 approaches:
– 2nd District – Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, will defeat Republican challenger Bill Marcy and Reform Party candidate Ashley Norwood.
– 3rd District – Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper of Pearl will defeat Democratic challenger and Pickens Mayor Joel Gill and Reform Party candidate Tracella Lou O’Hara.
Why? The district is drawn to overwhelmingly favor a Republican, the Democratic Party didn’t do anything to help Gill because of that and Harper maintained a dialogue with mainstream Republicans and Mississippi Tea Party activists alike.
– 1st District – In a very close election, Republican challenger state Sen. Alan Nunnelee appears poised to unseat Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Travis Childers with at least a plurality of the vote over Childers and seven independent or minor party candidates including Constitution Party candidate Gail Giaramita, independents A.G. Baddley, Les Green, Rick “Rico” Hoskins, and Wally Pang, Libertarian Party candidate Harold M. Taylor and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer.
Why? The erosion of conservative votes from Nunnelee to the seven other conservative challengers to Childers isn’t showing up in polling – and with the east-west split that powered Childers’ 2008 win over Republican Southaven Mayor Greg Davis absent and replaced by partisanship rather than sectionalism, the district’s well established Republicanism in presidential politics greatly favors Nunnelee.
– 4th District – In another close and unpredictable congressional race, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis should narrowly stave off Republican challenger state Rep. Steven Palazzo of Biloxi in Taylor’s bid for an 11th term in office over Palazzo, Libertarian Party candidate Kenneth “Tim” Hampton and Reform Party candidate Anna Jewel Revies.
Why? Palazzo’s race has been nothing short of stunning and he’s run a smart, savvy and modern campaign. But Taylor was re-elected with 79 percent of the vote in 2006 and 74 percent of the vote in 2008. I wouldn’t bet a dime on this one, but those numbers suggest that Taylor should survive Palazzo’s textbook challenge by a percentage point or two. It’s that close.

Sid Salter is Perspective Editor for the Clarion-Ledger. Contact him at (601) 961–7084 or e–mail ssalter@clarionledger.com.

Sid Salter