During the afternoon of Election Day 2004, based on usually accurate exit polls, it seemed like U.S. Sen. John Kerry was a shoo-in to win the presidential election.
Nine hours later, the tide turned. Around midnight, Fox News and then NBC called Ohio, a vital swing state with 20 electoral votes, for President George W. Bush, bringing his total to 269, with 270 needed to win. However, in an achingly slow tally, it was 10 hours later before Fox News finally called Nevada, with its five electoral votes, for Bush, boosting him over the threshold needed to win the election.
On the afternoon of November 3, rather than endure a messy repeat of the 2000 race, when Vice President Al Gore contested thousands of Palm Beach and Miami-Dade ballots and the election results were uncertain for weeks, Kerry conceded and Bush accepted the job as the nation’s CEO for the next four years.
“I’m glad it’s over and that the election was decisive,” said Marty Wiseman, Ph.D., executive director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. “I thought we had the potential for six or seven Floridas.”
Speaking ‘loudly’ for President Bush
Gov. Haley Barbour said in the record turnout, President Bush overwhelmingly carried the state with 60% of the vote, an increase from 2000 when he received 58.6%.
“Mississippians spoke loudly in the presidential election,” Barbour said.
The outcome also thrilled Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who talked to Fox News the next day about the strength of power the Republicans gained as a result of picking up congressional seats. Another shift occurred when Republican John Thune defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota).
“There is no doubt that Senators Lott and Cochran contributed to the Republican Party’s expanding its majority in the U.S. Senate,” said Barbour. “With the Senate remaining in Republican hands, Thad will rise to the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Trent will continue to serve as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.”
Republican Party chairman Jim Herring said he believed President Bush’s appeal in Mississippi went beyond party affiliation because of his commitment to family values and his strong, conservative leadership.
“Over 40 well-known Mississippi Democrats put principle before party and publicly endorsed President Bush in September,” he said. “Their action encouraged many other Democrats to follow suit.”
‘Friendly ear in the White House’
Hayes Dent, managing partner of Southern Strategy Group of Mississippi, pointed out that Barbour was an original member of then Texas Gov. Bush’s 10-member steering committee when he decided to run for president, and said his reelection should ensure the Mississippi business community “a friendly ear in the White House.”
“The combination of Bush-Barbour-Speed is a trifecta win for Mississippi business,” said Dent.
Mary Elizabeth Giles Cornelius, owner of Cornelius Equipment Company in New Albany, said she wasn’t certain that it mattered who won the presidential election.
“I don’t know how much help we could get from either one for our farmers,” she said. “Prices are low and the entire agricultural industry is hurting.”
Cornelius said it “wouldn’t hurt” that Republicans maintained control of the Senate, ensuring U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran would chair the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“He’s always looked out for and tried to help Mississippi farmers,” she said.
Woods Eastland, president and CEO of Greenwood-based Staplcotn, and son of the late U.S. Sen. James O. Eastland, a Democrat, said the impact of President Bush’s reelection on the cotton market “depends on what, if anything, he does concerning pressuring the Chinese to abandon their currency peg.”
“A good bit of our customer base is the U.S. textile industry, which is being decimated, and the process of the downsizing of that industry would be much slower if the Chinese would free-float their currency,” he said.
Stuart M. Irby, president of Stuart C. Irby Company in Jackson, said the election “went to my liking because I’m more in line with the philosophy of government the current president has.”
“Also, while I’m a little bit leery of the government largess, as it relates to sending money back to the states, I feel good about the prospects of us getting our share,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.