If I were to call the race today for Lt. Governor, I would predict Dewey Bryant would defeat Jamie Franks for the post. I have talked to people and the "liberal" label is beginning to take hold on Franks. Franks can deny the label all he wants, but it's perception--and not reality--that decides the election.
However, there is a week left in the campaign. And in politics, a week is an eternity. I have seen leads dissipate into deficits in just one week. You can look at state elections and Federal elections for such swings. So Franks still has time to turn it around and win.
Here is what Franks has to do:
1. Paint Bryant as a liberal. Remember, he ran as the liberal candidate for Rankin County Supervisor back in the 1988 special election.
2. For the interim vacancy on the Rankin County Board of Supervisors, he wrote a letter to then-Gov. Ray Mabus' office and stated he had always been a Democrat and he wanted the appointment. I found that out from one of Larry Swales' (The eventual winner of that race) top campaign aides.
3. Dewey Bryant started out as pro-abortion. I wrote on a previous post on how vehemently he was for a woman's "right to choose." But don't take my word for it. It was also reported he was pro-abortion in the Rankin County News of April 17, 1991. (No, I did not write a letter to the News or contact any of the reporters.)
4. He is AGAINST cutting taxes. After all, he is bitterly opposed to cutting the grocery tax on working people. Conservatives are always favoring tax cuts. Why not Dewey?
Franks has GOT to point all of this out to have a chance. If there is one issue that Mississippians feel strongly about, it is abortion. Now Dewey can talk about his pro-life credentials all he wants. But he became pro-life ONLY because he knew he would never get elected as a pro-abortion advocate. Franks has been pro-life from the start. If Franks pointed that out, Dewey's support would melt like a snowball on pavement in Key West, Fla. on a summer day.
Now Franks and his campaign staff may not think abortion is not that big of a deal. So I'll remind him about the 1991 Governor's race. Incumbent Governor Mabus was heavily favored to defeat Republican nominee Kirk Fordice. But I remember the bumper stickers that were on many a car that showed a fetus saying "Savus from Mabus." Everybody in politics knew Mabus was strongly pro-abortion. But he and his staff thought that wasn't a big deal.
The Sunday before the election there were flyers in many Baptist churches contrasting Mabus' pro-abortion stance versus Fordice's pro-life stance. On Election Day, Fordice stunned Mabus with a narrow victory. The margin was only by fifteen thousand votes. You can bet your sweet bippy the abortion issue was THE issue that defeated Mabus.
I analyzed the 1991 results versus the 1987 election results. In 1987, Mabus faced Democrat-turned-Republican Jack Reed. Mabus got 53% of the vote. In 1991, he got 49% of the vote. Mabus actually picked up black support in those four years and stayed the same in the white urban areas. It was the rural and the blue collar areas where Mabus lost heavily--in some cases losing more than 10% of the vote from his 1987 run. What was the reason? Mabus was perceived as liberal on abortion and that cost him reelection.
So Franks has a choice--go nuclear in the last week of the campaign or go down in flames. Right now, he is perceived as the liberal (His support of Kerry-Edwards in 2004 is hurting him.). But if he hits Dewey hard on the social issues and paint him as a flip-flopper who is pro-life to further his political career, he has a good chance of winning.
But the hour is getting late. What will Franks do?