An interesting column by Bobby Harrison, (printed Nov. 8 in The Dispatch), wonders if Mississippi Democrats are asking themselves if they might one day deliver unexpectedly strong showings like those seen last week from Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey.
In Virginia, a state trending Democrat but still fairly closely divided, Republicans won key races starting from the governor on down. New Jersey is a more solidly Democratic candidate, but that party’s candidate just barely won the governor’s election.
Bobby Harrison, who covers state government for Mississippi Today, asks if Mississippi Democrats could pull off a similar sort of showing and correctly concludes that it’s much less likely. And he offers evidence to back that up.
“A 2020 study by FiveThirtyEight, a respected blog that breaks down political trends and data, labels the Mississippi electorate as the nation’s least elastic or least persuadable,” Harrison writes. “In other words, Mississippi voters are less likely to vote for a candidate of the party they normally oppose even in cases of scandal or economic turmoil.”
The state’s racial divide appears to play a role in this. CNN exit polls from Mississippi’s 2018 U.S. Senate special election indicated that 84% of white voters supported the Republican candidate, while 94% of Black voters favored the Democrat on the ballot. No real surprise there — the state has many years of election results that make clear such a trend.
To put numbers to it, as long as white voters have a roughly 2-to-1 majority and trend conservative, Republicans will hold a significant majority in the Legislature as well as most statewide offices. It’s difficult to envision what might change this.
But there are other differences between Mississippi, Virginia and New Jersey.
The biggest is that FiveThirtyEight ranks Virginia among the 10 most persuadable states in America. That means a greater percentage of voters are willing to listen to both parties. This is no surprise, as the state was reliably Republican until just a few years ago.
New Jersey, meanwhile, ranks in the middle of the pack — which still means it has a lot more persuadable voters than Mississippi does.
Oddities do occur in the neighborhood. Alabama voters are America’s second-least persuadable and heavily Republican, yet they elected a Democratic U.S. senator to a partial term in 2017. And in Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of Amite is serving his second term in office, having won twice in a very reliably Republican state.
But there were unusual reasons for both results. The Alabama Republican, Roy Jones, was unable to shake off some very damaging personal conduct allegations. And Edwards won his first term as governor against a veteran Republican who turned out to be more unpopular than most expected.
Mississippi Democrats can hope to copy some of these success stories. But an honest assessment says their chances are minimal.
Greenwood Commonwealth, Nov. 9