Right now, many people think Republican Gov. Haley Barbour will win by a towering landslide over Democratic challenger John Arthur Eaves, Jr. On the www.cottonmouth.blogspot.com, I read one comment stating Eaves would "be lucky to break 40%."
As we say in the accounting profession: Take a statistic to lunch. So I did some number-crunching. I do believe Barbour is ahead and will likely win. But if I were the Barbour enthusiasts, I would not be too overconfident. It may be a lot closer than you think.
I have reviewed the voting statistics in Mississippi elections from 1975 through 2003 in state elections. The voting breakdown is 68% white and 32% black. True, these statistics are not always the same in every election, but that is about the average.
So let's see how this breaks down in the Governor's race. Eaves will get 95% of the black vote. I hear every election (except for Fordice) where the GOP nominee will get 10-15% of the black vote. Barbour thinks he'll get that percentage of the black vote. I believe, at the maximum, Barbour will get 8% of the black vote. So, Eaves will have a 30.4% base (32% times 95%) to work with.
Now we get to the white vote. Eaves will get at least 20% of the white vote. NO Democratic white candidate for state office has ever gotten below 20% of the white vote. Dick Molpus in 1995 got about 20% of the white vote, the lowest percentage of the white vote for a Democratic gubernatorial nominee. So, Eaves has another 13.6% added to the base (68% times 20%). That gives him 44% of the vote. (For Eaves to get below 40% of the state vote he'd have to get 14% of the white vote. My cat Bueller could do better than that.)
If Eaves is going to win, he must get 28.9% of the white vote. That is not as easy as you think. The suburban and urban white vote will go 85% to 95% for Barbour. Eaves will do poorly in the Reservoir, Crossgates and Castlewoods areas of Rankin County. And he will get creamed in DeSoto County.
But the crucial vote will be what I call the "blurals". This is a combination of the white rural and/or blue-collar workers. They are very conservative on social issues but liberal to populist on economic issues. Eaves must do well with these voters to even have a chance to win. It is hard to determine the percentage of the vote this group makes (For example: Bankers, lawyers, CPAs and engineers could live in the rural areas.).
Can he do it? His ads are heavily laced with fundamentalist Christian overtones. One ad has him saying, "Jesus healed the sick" in reference to universal health insurance for children. Another one has him talking about the "moneychangers." Another ad talks about his opposition to abortion, homosexual marriage and supporting prayer and Bible study in the schools. While this may turn off some economic conservatives, it is strongly appealing to the blurals. I've talked to a lot of the blurals. While most of them are voting for Barbour, the Eaves ads are very appealing to them and it is possible for them to change their minds. I plan to vote for Barbour. But as a very fundamentalist Baptist, I like Eaves' ads a lot better than Barbour's. Indeed, if I were voting just on my religious beliefs alone, I would definitely vote for Eaves. (I can't help but notice the bitter irony. It is a Democrat that is running a Christian Right campaign and a Republican running a secular, economic-based issues campaign. This is like having a Baptist preacher having Wild Turkey with his Sunday dinner.)
It is early in the campaign and it is hard to tell what will happen between now and November 6th. But if I were the Barbour people, I wouldn't get too cocky or overconfident. Eaves will not be a pushover. As of today, my prediction is Eaves would get 44% to 47% of the vote.
As I always say: Take a statistic to lunch.