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« Strategy Memo: Weight Of The World | Blog Home Page | Dems Lead Generic By 18 »

Lowering The MS Boom

Money is certainly not everything in politics. After all, dozens of Republican members who outspent their opponents in 2006 still wound up without a job after losing in November. But when one party has more than six times the cash on hand of another, the disparity can actually matter, and in the special election happening in Mississippi's First Congressional District on Saturday, that disparity is becoming apparent.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had already spent north of $400,000 in the race to replace now-Senator Roger Wicker, but in the last half-week Mississippians will see little else on television except the DCCC's newest advertisement. The committee reported it has purchased $700,000 in advertising in the district, an incredible expenditure that brings the party's total spending on the seat to just over $1.1 million.

According to one media watcher, a single point of television costs $124 in Memphis, on the western end of the district, and $40 in Tupelo, on the eastern side. That means Democrats are on television with more than 4,200 gross rating points, more than double saturation level.

Republicans are on the air with their own advertising, hitting Democratic candidate Travis Childers over his associations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and potential presidential nominee Barack Obama. The GOP has put about $592,000 into keeping the seat, which gave President Bush a 25-point margin in 2004. Those ads must have been working, as Childers himself put up a response.

Make no mistake, Childers should be considered the front-runner over Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, the GOP nominee. Childers won more votes in the April 22 first round, and Democrats are spending hugely to win over the seat. While Davis still retains a solid opportunity to keep the district in Republican hands, he's being outspent and out-advertised, and as we wrote last week, he's from the wrong part of the district.

Results from Saturday's elections will prove telling either way: On one hand, Republicans could win the seat and prove Democrats still can't win in the Deep South, that they have at least one region in which their wounded party is safe. On the other, Democrats could send a stark message to political analysts and animals everywhere: No GOP district is safe, and when it counts, the DCCC will wade in with the financial equivalent of Thor's hammer.

Sometimes the expectations game gets back to a state of equilibrium, in which a win is a win, no matter the margin. That's the case in Mississippi, given Democrats' financial investment and Republicans' inherent advantage.