May 15, 2008


Mississippi Special: Why Childers Won and Why Davis Lost (Stuart Rothenberg, 5/14/08, Real Clear Politics)

Some of the things I have said over the past few weeks about the Mississippi 1st district special election I now think were wrong. [...]

Hypothesis No. 3: Republican strategy in the race was flawed. They made a mistake by going negative on Childers too strongly and too quickly, and the effort to tie Childers to presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) failed.

I believe that this probably is correct. While Davis’ first TV ad after the primary runoff was positive — an endorsement spot that featured quotes from Gov. Haley Barbour, former Congressman Roger Wicker and Sen. Thad Cochran — knowledgeable observers close to the race agreed that Davis should have made much more of an effort to connect with district voters before attacking Childers.

“They never told voters what Davis stood for. They never built a foundation about who Davis was [as a person],” said one Democrat, who believes that Childers’ TV ads with the candidate talking “to camera” helped sell him to conservative voters.

Republican attempts — both by the Davis campaign and by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s independent expenditure — to polarize the race merely by calling Childers a liberal and linking him to Obama and Pelosi simply didn’t work. That approach was sufficient to produce a victory at one time, and it may have resonated with GOP voters in this race. But they weren’t the swing group in the contest, and those sort of generic messages seem less effective now.

Because Childers already successfully defined himself as a pro-life, pro-gun conservative Democrat, the GOP attacks bounced off him. Conservative Democratic voters didn’t believe the generic Republican attacks that Childers was a liberal.

To one smart Mississippian, the special election is easy to explain: “Travis Childers got the Bubba vote. He’s more like Bubba than is Davis, who hails from the Memphis suburbs.” need incumbency or bigger race above on the ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 15, 2008 8:50 AM

The corrupt hatchet men in the NRCC (and their bevy of stupid consultants) only know one thing, and that is the "you're a liberal" negative campaign.

In a term when good conservative ideas have been dragged through the mud by an incompentent and corrupt party, why would that work.

The NRCC is braindead. It's one reason I refuse to donate another dime. Here in IL, their bevy of consultants and "campaign managers" are the lowest skanks imaginable.

But hey, Fat Hastert recommends them.

Posted by: Bruno at May 15, 2008 9:31 AM

Or, better yet, when you've got two guys running as Democrats, why not vote for the real one?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 15, 2008 9:51 AM

Davis was plenty conservative.

I'll believe Childers is conservative when he votes for a Republican speaker. Until then he is as liberal as Pelosi or Barbara Boxer.

Posted by: h-man at May 15, 2008 11:36 AM

This also points out the larger trend... that the Right has won the policy debate. The Dems are forced to run right-wingers now and the Repubs have failed to adapt... That, more than anything else may spell election woes for the GOP.

It feels like there is a new division coming, different than the old Left/Right one we're all so used to...

Posted by: Benny at May 15, 2008 2:40 PM

Yeah, Benny, it's called "Working Majority-ism." Most every Republican president since WW2, before Bush, was able to utilize this. This is why Travis Childers, once things get started on the next Congress, will vote with the Republicans on nearly every military and tax issue.

It's also just about the only way McCain, should he win, gets anything done.

Posted by: Brad S at May 15, 2008 3:13 PM

A little reminder: 173 days until GOP Doomsday.

Posted by: Brad S at May 15, 2008 3:14 PM

This district is one of a huge number where Obama will be totally unwelcome for the rest of the year (we won't be seeing any photos of him with Heath Shuler, either). McCain will be lusted after by GOP candidates everywhere. Hence the monumental silliness of "GOP Doomsday."

Posted by: b at May 15, 2008 4:42 PM

BradS is like OJ: every fact, every single one of them, supports his argument.

There is no evidence to the contrary: none, zip, zilch, zero, nada...

Posted by: Benny at May 15, 2008 6:01 PM