What can we take from the victory of Democrat Travis Childers over Republican Greg Davis in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District? Is it a bellwether for Democratic success in the fall? What is to be learned especially as we look ahead to Alabama’s House races this fall?
A Mississippi Republican offers Parlor readers an insider’s perspective on the Childers-Davis race:
Looking back on this special election, I’m reminded of what Ole Miss coach Johnny Vaught frequently said: You don’t win games on the field. You win them on recruiting day.
When Greg Davis won the nomination to run for this seat in November, Mississippi Republicans lost the seat. The same campaign philosophy that made him the nominee (a very DeSoto County-centric, scorched earth strategy against Tupelo’s Glenn McCullough) ensured that the special election would be a fight between DeSoto County and the rest of the district… and guaranteed a loss. As has been said in the press over the last couple of days, it enabled Travis Childers run on a populist platform, break away (at least publicly) from his own national party, and frame this as a regional battle. Brilliant strategy on their part – the DCCC should be commended. If Anzalone had a hand in that, he certainly deserves to be on the list of winners.
The Republican nominee was stiff and not at all personable, and by all accounts, had high unfavorables by the time he reached the special election run-off. Compounding that, the prototypical conservative v. liberal message was entirely misguided. The good news for Republicans is that the message was unified, which is obviously much better than having a potpourri of messages coming from various organizations. The NRCC, the Davis campaign, the state party, even Freedom’s Watch- they were all nailing Childers to Obama. The bad news is that message was wrong. This year, simply connecting a candidate to Obama won’t work, even in districts where the white population makes up the overwhelming majority. Folks in AL-5 and AL-2 would do well to pay attention to the lesson Mississippi Republicans just learned the hard way.
Tom Cole held a conference call Wednesday with reporters, and said that after three special election losses in a row, it becomes less an issue of campaign tactics and more an issue of the product we’re putting in front of voters. Following that logic, Karl Rove wrote in Thursday’s WSJ that the first two losses were a result of “bad candidates” and the third a result of the Democrats nominating a conservative. Rove is partly right – the third loss, too, is a result of a bad candidate.
It’s easy for the Montgomery politico to comment on the Parlor Thursday that the NRCC should have done “whatever it took.” That politico should understand that you can spend a million, spend two million, spend whatever you’ve got – but if all things are equal with the candidates on election day, the jackass that can’t relate to the rural, hardworking Mississippian (or Alabamian) is the one that’s going to lose, even if he is a Republican.