Monday, March 10, 2008

Magnolia State Preview

With tomorrow's Mississippi primary upon us, I wanted to point to a few parts of the state that I think might prove interesting. Specifically, there are two congressional districts to focus on what should go a long way toward explaining not necessarily the outcome, but its magnitude.

With all polling going into the vote suggesting another win for Obama, we can begin our overview in the state's second congressional district. Currently represented by Democrat Bennie Thompson (an Obama supporter), the district is the heart of the delta and the home to one of the largest "majority minority" districts in the country. In fact, it has the 3rd largest African American population of any House district, at 59%. To put a bit of a historical spin on the analysis, it is here that so many of the great civil rights icons, such as Fannie Lou Hamer hailed from, and where much of "Freedom Summer" was fought. We can expect Obama to rack up massive margins here. Given the history of the region and its demographics you can be sure that there will be some mighty proud votes being cast there tomorrow.

Of more interest, perhaps, though will be the voting along the gulf coast. Here we have the fourth district, currently represented by Democrat Gene Taylor. Taylor is one of the few remaining Boll Weevils and is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition. Arguably the most conservative Democrat in the House, Taylor has managed to hang on to the seat--previously represented by Trent Lott--by racking up a voting record that includes being in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, and against virtually all gun control measures and those promoting abortion rights. He has not endorsed either of the Democratic candidates. Using Charlie Cook's PVI ranking of district partisanship (R +16), only two Democrats nationwide represent a more Republican leaning district. The district is 75% white and 23% African American. With major cities including Biloxi, Gulfport, and Hattiesburg, the district is as much influenced by New Orleans as anywhere else. The district was also ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. What I'll be watching, given these demographics and partisan flavor, is how Obama fares. One would think this would be more pro-Clinton territory and the vote here should provide a good test of whether Obama is recovering from the losses he suffered among working class whites in Ohio last week. Once the data starts coming in tomorrow, we'll do a thorough analysis.

Update: Also, there are Republican primaries for the open House seats in the 1st and 3rd districts. CQ provides a thorough rundown on the candidates in each.

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