Sam R. Hall: Senate Race Too Close to Call

Sam R. Hall:Senate race too close to call: Clarion Ledger

Here’s how I see it: Incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran has the slightest lead over GOP primary challenger Chris McDaniel, but the state senator from Ellisville has momentum that could send Mississippi’s senior senator into retirement.

Two independent polls released Friday show similar findings:

• The race is tight, with neither candidate having a discernible lead.

• Cochran is under 50 percent, and that’s bad news for an incumbent.

• McDaniel has upward momentum, even though the nursing home photo scandal has slowed it somewhat.

Harper Polling conducted the first survey released. Harper is a Republican firm that has done polling on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee earlier in the election. Its survey showed Cochran leading 45 to 40 percent, with 15 percent of likely GOP primary voters undecided. The margin of error, however, is 4 points, which means Cochran’s lead could be as small as 1 percentage point (or as large as 9 percentage points). The major problem with this poll is that it skews a bit older. Some have criticized it for not including enough respondents from the Hattiesburg market — McDaniel’s home territory — but that doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue. Either way, the poll probably favors Cochran slightly, which makes me think the margin is tighter than the results show.

Chism Strategies, a Democratic polling firm, conducted the second survey. Brad Chism bases his operation out of Mississippi, but he has done extensive work across the country. While he says he is currently not working for any candidate, he did serve in 2008 and 2010 as a consultant to former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers — the likely Democratic opponent of the GOP primary winner. Chism’s poll has McDaniel ahead 46.4 to 44.3 percent with a margin of error of 3.4 percent. This is a statistical dead heat; however, the poll is heavily weighted toward voters age 66 or older, which is a clear advantage toward Cochran.

The rub with these polls — with any poll — is that despite surveying only likely voters, it is impossible to predict what will drive higher turnout among irregular and first-time voters or what will cause large chunks of likely voters to stay home. In my opinion, the nursing home scandal could be key.

In discussing the impact of the scandal surrounding a 28-year-old blogger and McDaniel supporter sneaking into a nursing home and taking photographs of Cochran’s bedridden wife, my opinion has been this: It seems that the scandal has ignited McDaniel’s base, which could really drive turnout in his favor.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but follow me for a second.

McDaniel’s base seems genuinely angry because it sincerely believes the Cochran camp sandbagged McDaniel by waiting three weeks to tell authorities. It also thinks Cochran using the scandal in TV ads against McDaniel — who has not been implicated — is as distasteful as someone sneaking and taking photos of Rose Cochran.

On the other hand, Cochran’s base does not seem as excited about the race. Those who support Cochran think he’s done a good job and believe he should keep doing it, and they’ve never had to worry about whether or not “Thad” would win. He always wins. So while both polls show that the scandal has hurt McDaniel’s momentum, it’s done little to move undecideds to Cochran.

Ironically, neither candidate has a statewide network designed to push voters to the polls. You wouldn’t expect it from McDaniel, only a state senator. However, that Cochran doesn’t have one shows his vulnerability. He will rely on the networks of others, in particular Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee, Gregg Harper and — to an extent — Steven Palazzo. (The latter has a credible primary threat in Gene Taylor, so his focus must remain on his race.) Bryant and Harper have two of the best networks in the state, and that should bode well for Cochran — even though a number of key Bryant supporters are working for McDaniel.

As for McDaniel, he has cobbled together a network of tea party activists and younger elected officials across the state. While he has excitement and momentum, McDaniel lacks a unified get-out-the-vote apparatus and doesn’t have the benefit of “borrowing” one from supporters. His hard-core supporters will brave rain, sleet, snow and apocalyptic destruction to vote for McDaniel, but will they bring enough friends with them to put him over the top?

Twas’ A Month Before Qualifying: With a Mississippi Flavor

By: Mike Biggs

Twas’ a month before qualifying, all across the Magnolia State, Candidates have been fretting, whether to jump into the race. Pickering was pondering and Hosemann made known, That he was ready to go to Washington if Thad came home!

The Democrats wanted in on the upper chamber chatter, So in came Childers hinting he was ready to climb that ladder. Away in the Free State of Jones, a native son never blinked, For Chris was ready for Cochran, even ready to throw the kitchen sink!

Thompson, Harper, Nunnelee and Palazzo all seem safe, They will likely only see sacrificial lambs try and give them a race. But wait, Palin, DeMint and Heritage can still shake things up you see. They’ve got their arrows aimed at Republicans who refuse to drink the TEA.

The Tea Party may not be the only spoiler in town, For Marcy is ready to try on the Democratic sash and crown. Interesting dynamics keeps the political pendulum swinging, While sherrifs, supervisors and coroners phones keep a’ ringing. It’s Nosef or White or Tate or Phil, persuading the official to swallow the GOP pill.

State Democrats are active and out convincing too, Project 1776 is working as it goes into year two. House Dems have set their sights back on the speaker’s gavel, They’ll have rough terrain to defend if they can manage not to unravel.

So on Moak, Gunn, Whittington and Kenny Wayne, This upcoming session and election cycle is sure to be full of games. There’s one thing that makes this madness all worthwhile, And that’s seeing my friend Presley, dosey doe’n with the Carolina crowd. So to all to whom such a closure evokes fear, The PULSE wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Bryant Seeking $474K for Staff

Sun Herald: Bryant seeking $474K for staff

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is requesting an additional $355,531 to cover expenses for his staff through the end of the fiscal year after his predecessor, Haley Barbour, spent more than half of the yearly budget for the governor’s staff before departing.

Bryant is also seeking $119,000 to pay for workers at the Governor’s Mansion for 18 months, to replace the free labor previously provided by prisoners.

A bill proposes funding Bryant’s request from a state account created after Hurricane Katrina. During a 2005 special session, lawmakers authorized the state to borrow up to $500 million to help pay Katrina recovery expenses.

Charter School Legislation Backed by Top State Leaders

WLOX: Charter school legislation backed by top state leaders

Mississippi’s educational system could soon get an overhaul if a senate bill becomes law. That bill would pave the way for a charter school system setting up a seven member approval committee before any charters could be granted.

Charter schools would still be held to state standards and could have their charter revoked if not successful. There’s also a provision in the bill that would allow for the creation of virtual charter schools which means students would never have to even step foot in a classroom for an education.

When it comes to funding, both Bryant and Reeves say the money currently being spent on every student, should follow that student wherever they go. That’s about $9,000 per student.

Gov. Phil Bryant’s 1st Mississippi Budget Carries ‘Lots of Cuts’

Clarion Ledger: Gov. Phil Bryant’s 1st Mississippi budget carries ‘lots of cuts’

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant wants to cut state spending by $26 million to $5.49 billion in 2013, also insisting on building $100 million in state reserves. The Republican summarizes his first budget as a “lot of cuts,” saying he won’t raise taxes.

Many agencies would get 5.5 percent less in the year beginning July 1. Bryant would cut K-12 school funding by $73 million, demanding districts spend reserves. Community colleges and universities would mostly get 5.5 percent less.

Some law enforcement agencies would be spared.

Governor’s Mansion Makeover: Work to Cost $425K

Clarion Ledger: Governor’s Mansion makeover: Work to cost $425K

The Mississippi Governor’s Mansion is getting a $425,000 face-lift.

Work will include repairs to the plaster ceilings in the governor’s private living quarters, modifications to the heating and cooling system and tests for asbestos and lead.

During a legislative session that is likely to see drastic cuts in education, healthcare, and social services along with an all-out assault on state employees and pensions, it is unconscionable that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for such a costly remodel.

While transitional repairs and accommodations are routine and understandable, this is over the top.

Bryant Supports Reducing Governor’s Clemency Powers

Sun Herald: Bryant supports reducing governor’s clemency powers

Bryant’s comments come amid a firestorm out-going Gov. Haley Barbour created when he granted clemency to more than 200 convicted criminals in his final days in office.

“I have met with Sen. (Michael) Watson, with the speaker of the House and (Speaker Pro tem) Greg Snowden and briefed the lieutenant governor,” Bryant said this morning. “My request is that we restrict to very narrow guidelines the ability to provide pardons or clemency.

A constitutional amendment requires a 3/5 majority vote from the Legislature, then ratification by Mississippi voters.

In a previous post, Clarion Ledger: State Democrats seek changes with pardons , it noted that Rep. David Baria was introducing legislation to stop the practice of 23rd 1/2 hour gubernatorial pardons as well as the inmate trustee program. It was Democratic Leader Bobby Moak and House Democrats who raised issue along with the victims famlies about outgoing Gov. Barbour’s gross misuse of his contsitiutional authority.

It was AG Jim Hood’s defense of the law and MS constitution which led to the halt of release of some 21 of the criminals that had been improperly pardoned.

The MS Republican establishment, following the Reagan commandment, said nothing regarding this story which had taken on a national profile over the past four days…….Then, in rides the calvary..

Boot Scootin’ Bryant has declared today that he along with his Lt. Gov. and legislative leaders are now supporting a constitutional amendment reducing gubernatorial clemency powers. One has to give this bunch some “political points” here because they clearly see that the public along with the Democrats are right on this issue and that the pushback was real and growing.

The new reality is that although the Democrats are on the right side of this issue, and have been from the beginning, it will be an aspirant Republican who will author the legislation which will be passed with GOP majorities in the house and senate and just like that, the problem they created will be the problem they solve..