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Dem Surprises In MS

Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers came within 400 votes of winning outright a seat in Congress last night, giving Democrats another shot at picking up a district Republicans have held for a long time, and that gave President Bush a wide margin of victory in 2004. The race to replace Senator Roger Wicker in his old Tupelo-based House seat will now advance to a May 13 runoff between Childers and Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, the Republican.

Childers won 49.4% of the vote, but when combined with the nearly 1,000 votes State Rep. Steve Holland took, Democrats actually won closer to 51% of the vote. Holland and Glenn McCullough, the former Mayor of Tupelo, finished second in their primaries to replace Wicker, and both remained on the ballot in the special election despite going to court to get their names removed from the ballot.

Holland offered a strong endorsement of fellow Democrat Childers, while McCullough's lukewarm support for the Republican ticket as a whole -- he did not offer a specific endorsement to Davis -- came after a contentious GOP primary that was decided by about 500 votes. Republicans are promising to spend more time in Lee County, where Tupelo is based and where Childers won by twenty points. In 2006, Wicker, who is also from Tupelo, won the county with nearly 70%, performing better than he did in the rest of the district. To come back and win, Davis will need a much better result in the district's largest county.

After the National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $300,000 on the seat, which Wicker never had a problem keeping, and Democrats spent about $140,000 to aid Childers, the two parties are likely to continue spending both there and in Louisiana's Sixth District, where Democrat Don Cazayoux and Republican Woody Jenkins will face off on May 3.

That the two seats are in play sends what should be a terrifying message to Republicans looking toward the Fall. With more than two dozen GOP members of Congress retiring, the NRCC has seen a silver lining in that many of those seats looked out of reach for Democrats. But if Mississippi and Louisiana provide promising targets for Democratic candidates, so too can open seats all over the country.

Check out our full write-up and analysis of last night's Mississippi special election.