In a major blow to national Republicans, a Mississippi congressional seat that once voted for President Bush by a twenty-five point margin elected a Democrat on Tuesday. Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers beat out Republican candidate Greg Davis, the mayor of Southaven, by a 54%-46% margin, a spread that several Republican strategists on Capitol Hill characterized as a startling wake-up call for a party in dire straits. ~Reid Wilson

This seems to be a very clear indication that the NRCC’s efforts to make the House races into a national contest, invoking the dread spectre Pelosi to scare the voters into obedience, are completely useless and probably counterproductive.  The public mood is so bad and so hostile to the national GOP that drawing direct connections between their candidate and the national party, as they did constantly, seems to have done more to doom Davis’ chances than help them.  The ham-fisted attempt to link Childers to Obama (“Childers said nothing!”) gave off the scent of desperation, and rural Mississippians in the district who were already inclined to vote for one of their own against a ridiculous-looking suburban mayor weren’t buying it.  Childers did make a point of focusing his campaign on local concerns, and rejected any connection with Obama.  The party is in dire straits, and it is going to suffer many losses, but I would still insist that LA-06 and MS-01 are special cases with respect to the South.  Whether or not the ballot listed partisan affiliations, by the time of the run-off it seems likely most voters knew that Childers was a Democrat.  This suggests that the GOP can no longer expect the regular support of rural and small town voters on the basis of the party brand and the old one-trick pony of warning about godless Californian liberals coming to get you. 

House incumbents in safe districts do not typically lose their seats, and most other Southern Republicans in the House are in safe districts.  The GOP’s problem is that it is defending over two dozen open seats and has shown no ability to defend them.  We could very easily see a repeat of the 30-seat losses of 2006, and this number could go higher depending on how badly the economy is doing in the summer.  I suspect we’re going to start seeing a lot of split-ticket voting this fall.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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