The true test of the strength of a political party is if it wins after a divisive party primary. The Republicans in Mississippi had a nasty gubernatorial primary in 1979, when Gil Carmichael defeated Leon Bramlett by a 17161 to 15153 margin. It was an ideological primary, with Carmichael the moderate (He was STILL in favor of gun control.) and Bramlett the conservative. The primary was so nasty Carmichael couldn't recover. He was badly defeated by William F. Winter in the general election by a 61.5%-38.5% margin. But back then, the GOP was quite weak.
Fast-forward to 2007. Now there is a primary for Lt. Governor--State Senator Charles Ross versus State Auditor Phil Bryant. It is not going to be kuumbaya. Charles Ross is much more conservative than Phil Bryant. Remember: Bryant was an ally of former state attorney general Mike Moore on that Tobacco-Free Partnership. And despite the fact he had a pro-life voting record in his 4 3/4 years in the State House, on the Rankin County Republican Executive Committee he was pro-abortion. Only when he knew a pro-abort could not be elected did he change his views. Ross has been pro-life from the very start.
Ross may be aloof, but he is the genuine article. Bryant would be pro-abortion if he were in Vermont. He changes his views to conform with his constituency. Ross would be just as conservative even if he was in Vermont. I can tolerate Ross and I do respect him. I despise Phil Bryant and I would not vote for him even if he ran against that Commie-lib U.S. Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.
If Ross is smart, he'll paint Bryant as a liberal and a blow-dried candidate. That will not be that difficult to do. Ross has some bucks in his treasury and he's very intelligent. He is cerebral and has a lot of good ideas for the state. In a debate, Ross may not look as pretty as Bryant but Ross would cut him to ribbons. Bryant would look like a deer blinded by headlights.
But what would happen after the primary? If Bryant wins, he'll be portrayed as a dilettante
and an empty suit (duh). Plus, he'll have the "liberal" tag posted on him. If the nominee is Ronnie Shows or Ronnie Musgrove, Bryant will have an uphill fight. Shows would probably win. I can just imagine Shows saying to rural whites (who will be the deciding factor in the election)
"Look, my opponent is pretty and is a liberal. He lives in a nice home in a rich community. I live in a small town and I have always WORKED for a living. What you see is what you get. I don't get my hair coiffed at Monique's." Would it work? You better believe it would.
If Ross wins, his cold personality would hurt him. A folksy Shows or Musgrove could beat him. Plus, a lot of the Bryant supporters would vote Democratic because of the bitter primary. Also, these voters will be more moderate and would be more inclined to support a Democrat.
Another thing to consider: After a very nasty primary, would there be enough money to run a general election campaign? The Democratic nominee may have an easy primary and have enough cash for the general election.
There are a few other candidates in the mix. State Rep. Jamie Franks is the only declared Democrat running. If Ronnie Shows runs, Franks will lose. Musgrove will probably not run because of the toe-sucking incident a while ago. Once that is brought out, he'll look like a whackjob. A wild card is Barbara Blackmon, who was the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2003. If she runs, she may win. But she will lose no matter who the GOP nominee is.
Finally, there's another potential candidate who could win: Secretary of State Eric Clark. He has a very strong following among the Christian Right. He is a gung-ho pro-lifer and active pro-lifers consider him a hero. I have supported him in all three of his statewide races and I will work hard for him again no matter what post he runs for. Of all the politicians I have ever known, he is one of the most squeaky-clean individuals I have ever known. I once asked a friend who was a private detective if he knew any scandal on Eric Clark. He said Clark was a paragon of virtue. He'd run as a Democrat and would probably win. Clark is low-keyed but he is charming on a one-on-one basis. Plus, he is extremely intelligent. He has a PhD. in history. I don't agree with him on voter ID, but that's about it. Clark hasn't announced his intentions for 2007. He may run for re-election, run for Lt. Governor, or just plain retire.
If I were Phil Bryant, I'd stay on as State Auditor (Knox Ross is not running for the post. It's too bad, since he would do a good job.). If Ross loses, he can go back to his law firm. He won't starve. If Bryant loses, he can go back to being a fire inspector. If Bryant ran for reelection, he would win (I don't care if the Demos put up a child molester against Bryant. I'd vote for him before I'd vote for Bryant.). However, if former state senator Rob Smith ran against him as a Democrat, it would be a horserace. I'd vote for Smith, but I'm not wild about him.
It's still early. We won't know the entire picture until March 1st. But if it's Ross versus Bryant, it'll be a very interesting race. Let the fur fly!