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Has Tate Reeves Disgusted Mississippians Enough That They’d Consider Voting For … A DEMOCRAT?
Brandon Presley might actually have a shot at this.
Last night, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and his Democratic opponent Brandon Presley faced off in their first and only debate before Tuesday’s election. The debate wasn’t that exciting, and not much new was said: Presley has constructive solutions for Mississippi’s many problems, and Reeves is an absolute ghoul who wants to deny health care to poor people (a major demographic in the state).
What is interesting is that this race is at all competitive. President Joe Biden is incredibly unpopular in the state. His approval rating dropped to just 35 percent in the first three months of the year, down from a still-underwater 46 percent when he first took office in 2021. However, a recent poll shows Reeves, a Republican mind you, leading Presley by just one point, 46 to 45 percent. It’s not great when the sitting governor in a state his party dominates can’t break 50 percent. There are conflicting theories about whether undecideds tend to break for the challenger, but the almost 10 percent of undecideds are likely more a source of anxiety than hope for Reeves.
“When we look at that 10 percent of voters who are still undecided, they are almost all people who dislike Tate Reeves, but also dislike Joe Biden,” Tim Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, explained. “So it’s just gonna come down to for those voters, which thing wins out in the end? Is it more important that they don’t like Tate Reeves, they vote for Brandon Presley, or is it more important that they don’t like Democrats nationally?”
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Brandon Presley isn’t Joe Biden, of course, but he’s also not Joe Manchin. (He is, though, a “pro-life” Democrat whose exemptions for rape, inces, and life of the mother are presumably as good as you’d get in Mississippi. Goddamn.) Yet, he’s within striking distance of pulling off what no Democrat has done since 1999.
Radio host Jack Fairchilds broke down why conservative voters in particular loathe Reeves: He’s not loyal enough to fellow Republicans, and he supported changing the racist state flag. Those are hardly failings that would send Republicans into a Democrat’s waiting arms, but as I’ve often said, voters act more like Klingons than Vulcans. Their votes aren’t always based in logic, but whether they consider a candidate trustworthy and honorable. The “candidate I want to have a beer with” sentiment is often dismissed as shallow, but superior policy positions can’t erase a trust deficit. Just ask Al Gore.
Fairchilds concedes that voters just flat-out prefer Presley, a distant cousin to the King, to Reeves, who is more closely related to your aunt’s lumpy mashed potatoes.
“This is not a slam on the governor, but it’s just an honest observation: Tate doesn’t come across as a likable individual,” Fairchilds said. “And when you see him on TV ads, they don’t really help him. But when you see Brandon Presley on TV, there’s something more about him that comes across more likable than Tate … if you’re just a voter that knows the names and are seeing the ads, I don’t think Tate comes across as likable as Brandon does.”
If his odious personality is Reeves’s major obstacle, then he didn’t help himself during Wednesday’s debate. He just reminded everyone how severely conservative he is, but that’s not why he’s struggling. Meanwhile, Presley shared his moving history as the son of a single mother whose father was murdered when he was eight. His mother worked at a factory but still needed help keeping the lights on for Presley and his siblings. He pointed out that Reeves, who insists on calling Medicaid “welfare,” would probably have dismissed Presley’s mother as “a welfare person.” This masterfully humanizes Presley while highlighting the cruelty behind Reeves’s attacks on welfare in a state where almost a third of the residents are eligible for food assistance.
In 2019, Reeves decisively beat Democrat Jim Hood by five points, but that’s not impressive for a Republican. His predecessor, Phil Bryant, won by 30 points. Here’s how a Democratic consultant in Mississippi views the current race.
Consultant 1: “A big difference between 2019 and this year is that Jim Hood peaked in late August and then all the momentum was moving towards Tate after that. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. For Brandon to win, he needed to run a near-perfect campaign. And he’s done that. I honestly would’ve thought that Tate would be up by 6-8 points right now, but he certainly isn’t running like he’s up. Brandon started out further behind than Hood because of name ID, and the environment for Dems is not great right now. Biden is super unpopular, and the issue that has kept Democrats afloat in other states — Dobbs — isn’t relevant to this race … But I’ll say this, if Brandon does win, it’ll be because he actually, genuinely cared about winning Black voters.”
It once seemed a stretch to imagine Presley keeping Reeves under 50 percent and forcing a recall. Now, we might dare dream that Presley could win this outright.
Mississippi Gov Tate Reeves Says If You Deadbeats Want Health Care, Get Yourself One Of State’s Many ‘High-Paying’ Jobs
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