By Jim EllisOct. 24, 2019 — One of the more intriguing current elections is the Mississippi governor’s campaign. Here, GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is attempting to continue the Magnolia State Republican advantage, since the only Democrat to clinch the top elected job since the 1991 election is Ronnie Musgrove in 1999. Prior to Kirk Fordice winning in ’91, Democrats had held the governorship for 116 consecutive years.
Reeves arguably faces the strongest Mississippi Democratic opponent in this century’s state politics. Attorney General Jim Hood (D) has won four consecutive statewide elections to his current position, making him the most successful Democratic politician in the Deep South.
A just released Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey (Oct. 17-19; 625 registered Mississippi voters) finds the electorate breaking closely between the two contenders, as Reeves leads AG Hood, 46-43 percent according to the ballot test responses.
But the Mississippi election, going to the voters on Nov. 5, has an interesting caveat. Winning a statewide majority is not enough to be elected governor. In addition to reaching the 50 percent plateau for the statewide vote, a candidate also must carry a majority of the state’s 122 (meaning 62) state House of Representatives’ districts.
If neither candidate wins both a majority of votes and districts, then the state House members will cast their own votes to choose the next governor. With Republicans holding a 74-44 state House majority with 2 Independents and two vacancies, the chances of the GOP nominee carrying the majority of districts are high, and the Republican winning a vote among House members is a virtual certainty.
According to Mason-Dixon, the two candidates’ favorability indexes are similar. Reeves records a 41:26 percent positive to negative ratio, while Hood posts a 39:29 percent favorable score.
Most of the segments break as one would expect: Democrats going for Hood, 87-2 percent; Republicans favoring Reeves, 82-8 percent. Men favor Reeves, 50-38 percent, while women choose Hood in a 47-43 percent cut. The under 50 years of age segment leans to Hood 46-41 percent, while the over 50 group chooses Reeves, 51-39 percent. Whites support Reeves, 66-24 percent, and blacks back Democrat Hood in their typical division, 80-7 percent.
The pattern changes among Independents, however. In what could be the deciding segment, the non-affiliated respondents are breaking 45-38 percent for Hood. This is a surprising finding when comparing how the state, including Independents, views President Trump.
In Mississippi, President Trump posts a 54:42 percent job approval ratio. Among Republicans, the president’s favorability split soars to 89:6 percent, while he crashes and burns among Democrats, 90:8 percent. These ratios are typical around the country.
The respondents also don’t believe the president should be impeached. In a 56:34 percent statewide split, the sample cell says no to impeachment and removal from office.
It is here where the Independent numbers don’t appear consistent with how they view the governor’s contest and may provide Reeves with an opening to make positive inroads within this important voting segment.
On Trump job approval, the Independents actually favor the president, 52:41 percent, and a plurality, 48-41 percent, does not believe he should be impeached or removed from office.
There is no published crosstab result for the gubernatorial candidate favorability index, so it is difficult to know how the Independents view the two candidates. Since they are favorable to Trump and are breaking toward Hood on the governor’s ballot test, it is logical to assume, however, that Reeves has an image problem within this segment.
Therefore, expect to see the Reeves campaign make a major push to improve his standing among the Independents. If he succeeds, it would virtually assure him of statewide victory on Nov. 5.