What issues will matter most to voters when choosing Mississippi’s next governor?
Republican nominee Tate Reeves wants to convince voters that his opponent is a tax and spend, anti-Trump liberal. Democratic nominee Jim Hood wants to convince voters that his opponent is a self-serving politician who cares more about corporate cronies than average Mississippians.
It’s going to be that kind of race, with lots of money spent trying to convince voters what’s wrong with the other guy.
But are these negative issues the ones that matter most?
As Sid Salter pointed out, Reeves successfully framed Bill Waller as “too liberal” to take him down in the Republican primary runoff. Salter expects Reeves to “double down” on that same theme against Hood. Indeed, Reeves started out his campaign blasting Hood and only focused on Waller when the runoff became a reality.
While that tactic helped Reeves win the runoff, Waller’s more positive campaign on substantive issues garnered 46% of the vote. Will Reeves’ “too liberal” gambit bring those voters to his side in November?
As Reeves emphasized, Waller’s focus on fixing roads and bridges, increasing teacher pay, and saving hospitals are many of the key issues pushed by Hood. If a lot of Waller Republican voters care most about these issues and go with Hood, Reeves could be in trouble in November. Indeed, early polls showed Hood beating Reeves.
Or will President Donald Trump favoring Reeves be the biggest issue for Mississippi voters? There is no doubt Trump will endorse Reeves. The only question is how many Trump visits and Trump family visits to Mississippi will occur over the next two months.
In this vein, Reeves will try to nationalize the race by highlighting his support for Trump and his policies and playing on Mississippi disdain for national liberals.
In contrast, Hood will try to keep the focus local by using his faith-based oratory to highlight issues important to working men and women and playing on Mississippi esteem for pro-life values.
Indeed, the values issue could be in play too. During the primary Reeves emphasized his support for “Mississippi values” as a key theme. Hood emphasizes Christian values and regularly blends Bible verses into his comments.
Underlying all these issues is one key contrast that has defined these candidates over their careers. Few have been more pro-business than Reeves. Few have been more pro-consumer than Hood. Reeves talks about business opportunity while Hood talks about opportunities for working men and women. Reeves has championed business tax cuts and de-regulation. Hood has championed workplace safety and children’s issues and has proposed cutting sales taxes on groceries.
Then, there is this issue as highlighted by Wyatt Emmerich. “If you hate golf, you probably aren’t going to be good at it,” he wrote. “It’s as though some Republicans hate government. As a result, they aren’t very good at it. Cut, cut, cut may have been good medicine after 120 years of Democratic reign, but the anti-government tilt is tipping too far.
“We need a good, competitive two-party system in Mississippi. This one-party domination deal is for the birds. It allows the entrenched party to loaf.”
Will voters choose Hood, the Democrat, to re-balance government or stick with Reeves, the Republican, to keep things as they are?
Lots of issues for voters to consider.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.
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