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The View From Here

“If an election was held today, would you care?”

Mississippi State University students weren’t asking that question for the 2002 Mississippi Poll, but the ones they were asking offer an interesting analysis of what might happen in the 2003 statewide election.

Might, mind you. It’s May — 2002. We have a long hot summer of congressional campaigning to look forward to before thinking about who might be on the primary ballots and running in the general election in 2003.

But there are two topics we’re always ready to tackle in Mississippi: football and politics. So, despite warnings from Stephen Shaffer, the State prof who directs the poll every year, that “Much can change in the next year and a half before the next election,” it’s never too early to talk about it.

The 2002 Mississippi Poll was a project of Shaffer’s political analysis class with 20 undergrad political science majors conducting the statewide poll of 608 adult Mississippi residents the first two weeks in April. It’s a great project for the students, and gives us an idea of what’s on the minds of likely voters:

“If the Democratic primary for governor was held today, and the candidates were Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Attorney General Mike Moore, who would you vote for? Musgrove or Moore?” (Asked of 248 likely votes in the Democratic primary.)

• Moore, 48.4%

• Musgrove, 32.2%

• Undecided, 13.1%

• Neither, 6.3%

“If the Democratic primary for governor was held today, and the candidates were Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, who would you vote for? Musgrove or Tuck?” (Asked of 248 likely votes in the Democratic primary.)

• Musgrove, 44.9%

• Tuck, 25.5%

• Undecided, 19.7%

• Neither, 9.9%

“If the gubernatorial election was held today, and the candidates were Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Republican Haley Barbour, who would you vote for? Musgrove or Barbour?” (Asked of 333 likely voters in the general election.)

• Musgrove, 49.0%

• Barbour, 28.9%

• Undecided/Refused to answer, 22.1%

“If the gubernatorial election was held today, and the candidates were Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Republican State Auditor Phil Bryant, who would you vote for? Musgrove or Bryant?” (Asked of 333 likely voters in the general election.)

• Musgrove, 46.8%

• Bryant, 28.4%

• Undecided/Refused to answer, 24.8%

Other questions addressed the governor’s popularity, which declined slightly in 2002; the job performance of three high-profile Democrats — Musgrove, Moore and Tuck, with Moore rating most popular among likely Democratic voters; and the Legislature’s popularity, which declined (surprising none of us).

These early poll numbers are interesting, but to pull meaning from them is more difficult, although journalists around the state have been doing a great job in recent weeks of covering Mississippi politics and the impact political stories have on business, health care, economic development and education. Writers, cartoonists and commentators from North Mississippi through the Pine Belt to the Coast, and from the Delta, Vicksburg, Jackson and Meridian have produced outstanding work on Haley Barbour’s tour of the state, the Medicaid situation, the governor’s cell phone calls, what happened with Hyundai and tort reform.

How these ongoing issues shape the coming political campaigns is unclear, but we can be certain that it will be a lot of fun to watch.

And never too early to talk about.

Looking for a roundup of Mississippi political news? Visit Brian Perry’s Web site at www.magnoliareport.com. The complete 2002 Mississippi Poll is posted online at www2.msstate.edu/~kauai/poll/pressrelease02.html.

Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at jlaird@msbusiness.com.

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