Republicans worried after Mississippi defeat

The loss of a House seat in a GOP district has party members running scared, and concerned about what this bodes for November.

By Alex Koppelman
May 14, 2008 7:37PM (UTC)
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As I mentioned when it happened on Tuesday night, the result of a special election in a solidly Republican district in Mississippi is potentially very bad news for anyone in that party who hopes to take back Congress this November. Despite the GOP advantage in the district, Democrat Travis Childers pulled out a sizable victory, defeating his opponent, Greg Davis, 54-46.

Republican leaders see the ominous signs, too, and aren't being shy in admitting it. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, released a statement that the Politico's John Bresnahan described as "a declaration of surrender." In it, Cole said:

Though the NRCC, RNC and Mississippi Republicans made a major effort to retain this seat, we came up short ...

The political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general. Therefore, Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for. This is something we can do in cooperation with our Presidential nominee, but time is short.

I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the GOP's leader in the House, released a statement of his own. In it, he said, "The results in MS-01 should serve as a wake-up call to Republican candidates nationwide. As I've said before, this is a change election, and if we want Americans to vote for us we have to convince them that we can fix Washington."

Republicans are reportedly considering changes to their message, strategy and leadership in response to the loss and others this year -- Childers' victory means the Democrats have won three straight special elections held in conservative districts.

Update: In comments, a reader pointed out that I was wrong in how I characterized Republican losses so far this year; the post has been corrected.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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