Democrat Brandon Presley could win in Mississippi

Could the chaos in the American legislative apparatus, fueled for several weeks by the increasingly glaring divisions within the Republican Party, tip over, on November 7, one of the states of the “Deep South”, the very conservative Mississippi, in the hands of a Democratic governor?

The question arises a few days before the election for which the chances of victory of the Democratic candidate, Brandon Presley, have gone from uncertain a few months ago to probable in the last weeks, according to the most recent measures of opinion. A perspective which could testify as much to the level of decay of American politics, still marked by the influence of a Donald Trump pursued by the courts but well ahead in the primaries of his party, as to the possible weariness of voters in the face of the obstinacy of the radical movement led by the ex-president.

“Mississippi is a politically conservative state where Republican candidates win by huge margins, often 60% of the vote,” summarizes local political scientist Glenn Antizzo in an interview, a specialist in southern American politics at the College of Mississippi. Under normal circumstances, in this “deep red” Mississippi, a guy like Tate Reeves [l’actuel gouverneur républicain candidat à sa réélection] should lead the charge,” but he finds himself mostly on the defensive.

Two weeks ago, a poll conducted by the Democratic Governors Association indicated that the two candidates were neck and neck just days before Tuesday’s election, with voting intentions split at 45% for the Democrat. and 46% for the Republican.

The distance between the two men is within the margin of error. And the 10% of the electorate claiming not to have made their choice at this stage of the campaign certainly represents much more of a threat than an opportunity for the Republican who gives rise to an unfavorable opinion among 68% of these undecided people.

“It’s possible that Brandon Presley wins,” said Marvin King, contacted by The duty at the University of Mississippi, where he teaches political science. And if that happens, it will send shockwaves across the country and send a warning to Republicans that even the most deeply Republican areas of the United States can no longer be taken for granted. »

A distant cousin of the King

Nearly 23 years after the election of the last Democrat to the post of governor in this state, all hopes are high for the 46-year-old politician who displays his family ties with the King, Elvis Presley, of whom he is a first cousin, as political positions which make him an atypical democrat, certainly more in tune with the spirit of his field than with the main lines set out by his party from Washington.

As mayor of the small town of Nettleton — 2,000 inhabitants in northeast Mississippi — Brandon Presley established himself as the champion of tax cuts and balanced budgets, while supporting George’s candidacy. W. Bush during the 2004 presidential election.

From the Mississippi Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s telecommunications, electric, gas, water and sewer utilities, and on which he has served for 15 years, the Democrat has served opposed the construction of a mega coal-fired power plant, fought a proposed dumping of nuclear waste in the Mississippi River and led the charge to expand internet access in rural and poor areas of the state.

While presenting himself as an anti-abortion Christian and a pro-gun citizen, he is now promising a billion-dollar plan to expand social security in his state and, above all, prevent the closure of 40 hospitals in remote corners of the country. Mississippi.

“Brandon Presley is a “blue dog democrat”, as we say here, a Democrat oscillating between moderate and conservative and who, in the State of New York, would certainly be seen as a moderate center-right Republican, summarizes Glenn Antizzo. He campaigned on traditional Republican themes, such as lowering car registration fees and eliminating the grocery tax. He is opposed to abortion and sex education programs, but he also and above all benefits from the negative image of his Republican opponent. »

Beloved by Mississippians for keeping his state “open” during the COVID-19 pandemic while others around it imposed unpopular lockdowns, Tate Reeves has since lost much of his luster, now finding himself at the helm of one of the poorest states in the country, facing a health care crisis, particularly in rural areas. And his opposition to extending Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people, to workers without social security coverage, certainly does not help improve his popularity among several segments of the electorate.

A sign of the rejection he inspires: after granting a US$6,000 increase to teachers and above all contributing through his policies to improving academic results in public schools, Reeves is struggling to reap the benefits. The teachers’ union now supports Brandon Presley, and thus places the Democrat in the right direction, without us yet knowing very well where this support will allow him to position himself on the finishing line.

The weight of the vote

“It will take very strong participation from Democratic voters for Mr. Presley to win the election,” summarizes Brian Shoup, director of the Department of Political Science at Mississippi State University, in an interview. Which is not a foregone conclusion. » This electorate is made up of the vast majority of African-Americans whose mobilization remains crucial, even if it is complex to orchestrate.

This is because several decades of republican conservatism have in fact contributed gerrymandering, the art of cutting electoral maps to reduce the weight of the vote and the influence of one’s adversaries, to keep the poorest voters and African-Americans away from the polls. In Mississippi, which will also have to renew its local legislature on November 7, 85% of the legislative seats at stake have no opposition this year, compared to 63% in 2011, according to data from the Ballotpedia site, a non-profit organization. nonprofit that tracks elections, compiled for The Associated Press.

In this hostile environment, Brandon Presley has no shortage of assets, having received the support of the most powerful African-American politician in the state, Deputy Bennie Thompson, who co-chaired the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the insurrection of January 6, 2021 against the Capitol, but also that of Morgan Freeman, one of Mississippi’s most famous African-Americans. The Oscar winner appeared alongside him at a campaign event held in Clarksdale on October 21. But can this have a decisive effect?

“That remains to be seen,” says Brian Shoup. Contemporary politics in the United States is increasingly stubborn, and in both major parties, disgust with opponents often trumps everything else, including issues within one’s own ranks. »

“A Presley victory cannot be entirely influenced by federal policy in Washington nor be a barometer in anticipation of the 2024 presidential election,” adds Glenn Antizzo. But if it happens, it could be a sign to Democrats that “blue dog democrats“may have a role to play in the south of the country” to extend the influence of Joe Biden’s party beyond the historic strongholds of the west coast and the northeast coast of the country. And above all that these atypical Democrats, of which Brandon Presley is one, could become a solution to “attract moderate Republicans who are tired of the MAGA wing within their party,” he adds, the Make movement America Great Again by the ex-president, first marching on the banks of the Mississippi before, perhaps, spreading elsewhere.

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