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November 5, 2003
Republicans Make Gains in the South

The Democrat position in the South continued to erode, as the Republicans gained two governorships in elections yesterday:

With a presidential campaign only months away, Republicans picked up two governorships in the South, ousting Mississippi's Democratic incumbent and seizing Kentucky's top job for the first time in 32 years. GOP Washington lobbyist Haley Barbour unseated one-term Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, while in Kentucky, three-term Republican Rep. Ernie Fletcher defeated Democratic Attorney General Ben Chandler.

In an echo of the California recall, neither election was as close as pre-election polls indicated, especially in Mississippi, where newspapers had the race as a dead heat; Haley Barbour wound up winning by eight percentage points, far larger than the margin of error in the polls. Fletcher won by 10 points.

Mississippi Democrats criticized Barbour for his connections and years spent in Washington as Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) and other top GOP officials came to campaign for him — and as Musgrove distanced himself from national Democrats. In Kentucky, party activists argued that a vote for Chandler would tell the White House its economic policy is a failure.

All of this underscores the fact that the Democrats are heading in the wrong direction, especially in the South, as I wrote yesterday. Will this matter to the San Fran-LA-NY crowd? Probably not; instead, we'll hear a lot about Republicans stealing votes or intimidating minorities, some of which we've already heard. Don't expect a lurch back to the center anytime soon -- the True Believers are in charge of the party, and True Believers don't cotton to compromise.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 5, 2003 5:08 AM

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