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National politicos paying attention to Magnolia State campaigns

The Democratic race to represent the party in the presidential election is still up for grabs.

“But only in theory,” says national political analyst Stu Rothenberg, who will keynote the Delta Council’s 73rd annual meeting May 23 at Delta State University.

Speaking in a conference call earlier this month with local media, Rothenberg said Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has already secured enough delegates to mathematically gain the nomination, but enough of the party’s superdelegates were still up for grabs and could tilt the race in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s, D-New York, favor.

“She has a narrow window of opportunity,” Rothenberg said. “She has to make a late appeal to superdelegates on the basis of safety and electability.”

Clinton’s win April 22 in the Pennsylvania Primary was a must if she was to remain relevant in light of Obama’s string of wins in February and March. The campaigns now move on to primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, and Clinton would be behooved to win both of those.

And in spite of party leaders’ denials to the contrary, the bloodbath the Democratic race has become is doing nothing but aiding the cause of Republican nominee John McCain. Despite overwhelming polling numbers that show voters have a disdain for President George W. Bush and his policies, and the general consensus that McCain would be a continuation of those policies, McCain is still polling well.

“People have said they want change,” Rothenberg said. “McCain is a different kind of Republican.”

Whichever Democrat emerges will be battered and bruised, while McCain will have had months to get his message out and run a campaign aimed at the Oval Office, and not an individual state’s primary.

Those were some of the points Rothenberg made in a half-hour roundtable with Mississippi media. He also made it a point to say that the business community — long a GOP stronghold — was not that excited about McCain.

“He’s differed with them on immigration and campaign finance,” Rothenberg said. “This is going to sound crazy, but some business folks I know are more enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton because they say she knows how to make a deal. McCain forms a position and doesn’t bend on it.

“McCain has been brutal on pharmaceutical companies. He favors the importation of prescription drugs. He just doesn’t have the view that most Republicans have — that a free market is right and the business community can do no wrong. His will be a very different presidency than Bush’s.

“He’s kind of been an activist. He doesn’t play ball and negotiate as much as they think he should. The oil and gas industries don’t like him because he’s questioned some of their business dealings.”

Rothenberg also touched on some Mississippi races he was following:

• On the Democratic majority in each chamber of Congress: “It will be expanded. There’s no doubt. This will be a good year for Democrats.”

• On the race between Ronnie Musgrove and Roger Wicker to replace Trent Lott: “We would like to see Wicker act more aggressively to protect this seat.”

• Rothenberg said Mississippi’s First Congressional District’s race between Southaven Mayor Greg Davis and Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers was “too close to call.” Childers, a Democrat, and Davis face a May 13 runoff to decide who will fill Wicker’s unexpired term on an interim basis until November’s general election.

• On the speculation of who would join McCain on the presidential ticket: “We never get this right.” He said Gov. Haley Barbour was “unlikely” to be a candidate.

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .

About Clay Chandler

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