Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gov. Haley Barbour's Precedent

I will comment on local politics as the qualifying candidates for the posts near its end. I'll give you my blunt opinion of the local candidates after that.

I would like to comment on Barbour. As of today, he is a shoo-in for reelection. I believe he'll get between 56%-59% of the vote. I can't see any Democrat defeating him. If the Democrat is weak, Barbour may defer some of his campaign funds to help legislative candidates running under the GOP banner.

In 2003, he did something that has never been done in Mississippi's history: He defeated a conservative Democrat, incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Musgrove was very much pro-life and very conservative on other social issues. He was a tightwad on fiscal issues and was the only governor to bring a major manufacturing plant (Nissan) to his (or her) state. My only criticism is that he expanded the Medicaid program to nearly bankrupting the state. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the program expanded from $1.88 billion to $3.476 billion in his four years of office.

Musgrove was criticized for not being aggressive enough. He did have a high-pitched voice and he struck many a person as being a wussy. I met the guy and I can tell you he was a very humble, likeable guy. This was--and is--a sharp contrast to Barbour's cold, aloof manner. I remember when Barbour addressed the Mississippi Tax Institute back on October 27, 2005. He was as aloof as you can get. He didn't talk to you, he talked DOWN to you.

The late Kirk Fordice defeated two liberals when he ran for election and reelection as governor. He defeated incumbent Democrat Ray Mabus in 1991 on the basis of the social issues. The Sunday before Election Day our church had fliers showing how liberal Mabus was on the social issues compared to the conservative stands of Fordice. The pro-life vote sunk Mabus since the pro-lifers were mobilized against Mabus. Remember the bumper stickers that showed a fetus hanging by a thread with the slogan "Save us from Mabus"? Fordice won by a very slim margin against Mabus.

As for 1995, Secretary of State Dick Molpus was perceived to be a liberal. Actually, he was pro-life and was quite conservative on the social issues (I personally asked him where he stood on the abortion issue. He said he was opposed to it other than to save the life of the mother, rape and incest.). But was he arrogant. He even made Fordice look humble (which is no small feat. Fordice was one of the biggest jerks I have ever met. He really WAS mean.). Fordice handily defeated Molpus with 55.9% of the vote.

I was shell-shocked when Barbour was elected. I knew the race was going to be close, but I thought Musgrove would win with 51%-52% of the vote. I thought Barbour was too arrogant and ignorant of Mississippi's problems. After all, he was a high-powered lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He struck me as a fat cat who just wanted to add to his resume' the governorship. Yet he defeated Musgrove by a small but decisive margin. It was not a liberal but a conservative he defeated.

I'll hand it to Barbour. He showed strong leadership and was very decisive during Hurricane Katrina. His connections helped quite a bit. He set a precedent which will hur Democrats in years to come. It's simply this: Even if the Democrat is a staunch conservative, a conservative Republican will probably win.

A little irony here: Fordice and Barbour never switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP. They were Republicans from the start. Every conservative Democrat who switched to the GOP and ran for governor on the GOP ticket lost. Gil Carmichael was always a Republican, but he was moderate to liberal (Remember when he came out for the Equal Rights Amendment and gun control back in 1975 when he ran for governor against Cliff Finch?). Jack Reed was a squishy moderate, but he was a Democrat-turned-Republican.

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