Tuesday's other important contest

GOP struggles in a Mississippi special election it expected to win easily.

By Steve Benen

Published April 23, 2008 6:00PM (EDT)

Obviously, there was considerable interest in Pennsylvania's Democratic presidential primary. But let's not overlook the other important election result yesterday.

The House seat for Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, left vacant when Republican Sen. Roger Wicker moved to the upper chamber, was expected to stay in Republican hands. After all, this is a district that President Bush carried in 2004 by 25 percentage points. It's not exactly a "swing" district.

And yet, adding additional evidence to the argument that Republicans are in for a very long year at the congressional level, the results in yesterday's special election were a pleasant surprise for Democrats.

In a major upset that shows just how strong opposition to the Iraq War is in even very red states, the Democratic candidate came out on top in the first round of the special election to succeed Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) in his old House seat, in a district that by all rights should have had an outright win for the Republican candidate.

Democrat Travis Childers finished with 49% of the vote in last night's special election, Republican Greg Davis 46%, and the remainder going to the defeated candidates from the primaries for the regular election in November, plus third-party candidates. Without anybody getting 50% of the vote, this goes to a runoff in three weeks.

Both Childers and Davis are strong social conservatives, so it might be useful to look at the major issue dividing them: Iraq, with Childers supporting a timetable for withdrawal and Davis in favor of staying.

As if the National Republican Congressional Committee didn't have enough problems already, it's now poised to lose a safe Republican seat in a safe Republican state.

Steve Benen

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