Term limits prevent Republican Gov. Haley Barbour from running a third time, so the field is wide open. Gulf Coast businessman Dave Dennis is gearing up to run for governor as a Republican, while Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is playing coy about whether he'll enter the GOP gubernatorial primary. Clarksdale lawyer and businessman Bill Luckett and Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree are taking steps to run for governor as Democrats.
Bryant is in his first term as lieutenant governor, and as presiding officer in the Senate he has a political edge.
He and the Senate have been accused of being a legislative strong-arm for Barbour, helping the governor get his way on numerous policy proposals and legislation, much to the chagrin of the Democrat-led House.
Bryant's perceived willingness to help the Barbour agenda wouldn't hurt in a gubernatorial bid.
The No. 2 position also provides Bryant the opportunity to put himself alone in the spotlight, which he has done a few times in the past several months.
In April, Bryant joined Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Obama administration health care package. The federal lawsuit contended that the law gave the federal government the authority to determine the scope of health insurance coverage Mississippi must offer health employees.
Bryant has plans to take his opposition to the federal law a step further during the 2011 session.
He's sent a letter to Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Eugene "Buck" Clarke, R-Hollandale, asking him to recommend a bill authorizing the state "to protect our citizens by all lawful means from the implementation of the Obama health care plan."
"I believe the Mississippi Legislature must confront this threat to our liberty," Bryant wrote. "Indeed, as elected officials, you and I took oaths before God to faithfully support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Mississippi."
Bryant wants Clarke to base the proposal on what other states are doing to resist the federal law. The impact of such a proposal is questionable since federal law usually prevails over state law.
Nevertheless, the move shows Bryant's willingness to write off some low-income and minority votes in a gubernatorial campaign.
That kind of measure also would generate a lot of headlines in a conservative state that voted for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, and one that's seeing increased tea party activity as opposition grows to some of Obama's policies.
Illegal immigration is another topic in which Bryant could get a lot of mileage. When he served as state auditor, Bryant's office released a report in 2006 declaring illegal immigrants a drain on Mississippi services.
The report concluded the state spends $25 million a year on health care, education and prison costs for illegal immigrants. Advocacy groups dismissed the document as a racist rant devoid of credible statistics to support the claims.
As lieutenant governor, Bryant has supported measures seeking a crackdown on illegal immigration. It's a given Mississippi lawmakers will consider a bill in 2011 similar to the new immigration law in Arizona that requires police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally.
The federal government has sued to stop the Arizona law, but it's still a proposal sure to appeal to Mississippi's conservative voters during next year's campaign season.