Political analysts Andy Taggart and Jere Nash did not agree on many things at Monday’s Stennis Capitol Press Corps luncheon.
A victory by Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. against state Rep. Earle Banks was one. Waller and Banks are running for a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court out of the state’s central district.
Nash, a Democratic campaign consultant, said what’s most caught his attention about the race is the relative lack of involvement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Aside from a few radio spots, the Chamber is staying out of the Banks-Waller race. That duplicates the organization’s approach from 2008, when current supreme court justice Jim Kitchens defeated then-chief justice Jim Smith in what was considered an upset.
That, and the fact that Pres. Barack Obama won the district by 23,000 votes in 2008, is why Nash thinks there is a chance Banks unseats Waller. “It’s unlikely, but it’s possible,” Nash said.
Taggart, a Madison attorney who served as former Gov. Kirk Fordice’s chief of staff, was unconvinced there was much possibility of an upset by Banks, who has been endorsed by the state Democratic party in the nonpartisan race. Taggart cited the Waller family’s history in Democratic politics and Waller’s likeable demeanor as reasons he would be hard to beat.
Taggart would not offer a prediction about the northern district’s supreme court race – one of his sons is involved in Josiah Coleman’s campaign – but Nash said Coleman, an Oxford attorney, would most likely beat Batesville attorney Richard “Flip” Phillips. The two are running to replace retiring justice George Carlson.
Groups not affiliated with Coleman – including one associated with the Mississippi Business and Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC) – have run ads that accuse Phillips of being under the control of the state’s plaintiffs’ lawyers.
It’s that influx of outside spending that Nash thinks will push Coleman to victory. Coleman has been endorsed by the state GOP; Phillips is being backed by state Democrats.
Nash and Taggart predicted their party’s candidate would win the presidential election. Taggart said Mitt Romney had to win swing states Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. Ohio was not a must-get, but if Romney were to win it, that “would bring down the president’s entire firewall and would turn the election into a landslide for Romney,” Taggart said. Taggart cited poll numbers from independent voters in a number of swing states that showed the group felt the country was headed in the wrong direction. “That’s always good news for a challenger.”
Nash said Obama would win because the president’s campaign has done a better delivering and controlling its message – specifically, not allowing Romney make the election completely about the economy.
“And Romney has gotten only one lucky break, which was the Denver debate,” Nash said, referring to the first debate between the candidates in which Obama himself admitted he was outdone. “The Obama campaign has gotten several lucky breaks — Todd Akin, 47 percent, Hurricane Sandy and Chris Christie.”