Locals discuss state of presidential election ahead of Mississippi primary Tuesday

Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 6, 2016

NATCHEZ — In most past Presidential election cycles, by the time Mississippi’s partisan primaries came around, the nominees for the two major parties are all but determined.

But not this year.

In the Republican race, the contest — which at this point is effectively between frontrunner Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and a trailing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — could go all the way to the national convention. While Trump has a commanding lead, he would have to win 51 percent of all delegates remaining, a difficult task with multiple candidates in the race.

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In the Democratic race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has 1,066 pledged delegates and superdelegates, while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., has 432. The winner will need 2,383 to take the party nomination.

“In our state, as far as I can tell, until just the last three or four days the campaigns have not paid a lot of attention to us, so I think Mississippians have been going with the flow, but now that our primary is coming up Tuesday, we have had visits from the Clintons, Trump is coming up, and others have been engaging Mississippi because it is still undecided at this point — we could still play a role in how things are decided,” said John Hudson, a long-time Adams County political observer.

“To see the different campaigns paying attention to Mississippi, that is kind of new to us, because historically over the years we have not secured the attention of the national campaigns. In the primary season it is pretty critical, and often by the time we vote the die is cast, but at this time it still isn’t.”

In a statewide poll commissioned by Y’all Politics, Trump is projected to carry the state on the Republican side.

The brash, outspoken and often controversial businessman without past direct involvement in the political arena is running a campaign around the slogan that he wants to “make America great again,” and long-time Adams County Republican activist Johnny Junkin said the Trump campaign is in many ways appealing to voters who feel like they’ve been disenfranchised.

“They are mad, and they feel like they have been left out,”Junkin said. “He is somebody on the outside and expresses some of the views they have held onto.

“This is something that has been building, and he has been the one that came at the right time and place. I think you are going to see a lot of different folks voting than you have, folks who haven’t voted in a while.”

Bruce Brice, the chairman of Adams County effort to get Trump elected, said many of his supporters like him because he’s not beholden to SuperPACS or corporate donors, and because of his stances on trade, foreign policy, immigration and national security.

“He is considered an outsider, and I think a lot of what Mississippians and Americans in general are frustrated with, is when the Republicans took the mandate — the majority in the Senate and House — they didn’t stand up and do what they said they were going to do,” Brice said. “They control the funding of the government and didn’t really stand up and take a strong stance on the issues like Obamacare by using the power of the purse. They pretty much rolled over.

“(Voters) want somebody from outside Washington who is not a professional politician, who has shown himself to be quite successful, who knows how to organize and run a company and hire the right people, who knows negotiation and how to make a great deal and walk away from a bad deal.”

Junkin said that while the Trump campaign is said by some to be an indictment of the Republican establishment, it’s a term that has come to mean, “Whoever is not me is the establishment.”

“I have never felt like I was part of the establishment, but I am sure there are those who view me as the establishment,” he said.

Junkin said he’s unsure of who he would want to be the nominee, but no matter who it is, “I am kind of like a lot of people — I am against Hillary. Whoever it comes to be, that is who I am for.”

On the Democratic side of the race, the primaries have been hard fought but not as combative as the Republican races.

The Y’all Politics poll projects Clinton to take Mississippi with 54 percent, but Adams County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Frances Bailey said it’s difficult to call at the local level.

“Right now, it is hard to say because you have voters leaning in both directions,” she said. “A lot of your younger people are leaning toward Sanders, and a lot of your older folks are leaning toward Clinton. We will have to let Tuesday come and see how the voters feel in the primary.”

But no matter how that primary goes, Bailey said, “Whoever comes out on top, we as Democrats will be willing to support that person.”