The poll released Friday morning shows that Waller, whose campaign slogan is “the conservative who can win in November,” would perform three points better against Hood than Reeves, who has 10 times the money and key endorsements statewide.
In a matchup between Hood and Waller, the results were:
• Bill Waller Jr., Republican: 53%
• Jim Hood, Democrat: 41%
• No answer: 6%
When Hood is matched against Reeves, the race breaks down this way:
• Tate Reeves, Republican: 51%
• Jim Hood, Democrat: 42%
• No answer: 6%
Hood, the fourth term attorney general who aims to become the state’s first Democratic governor since 2003, trails Waller by 12 points and Reeves by nine points in the poll.
Waller announced his candidacy in mid-February after serving 22 years on the Mississippi Supreme Court. His entrance into the race shocked many who assumed Reeves would coast to a Republican nomination.
Waller has pitched several of the same policy proposals as Hood, including increasing teacher pay each year until the state’s average reaches the Southeastern average and expanding Medicaid (although Waller exclusively refers to his plan as “Medicaid reform”).
Reeves, who has served the past eight years as lieutenant governor after also serving two terms as state treasurer, has largely ignored Waller and Hernando state Rep. Robert Foster, instead focusing his messaging on defeating Hood in November. All the while, he’s racked up endorsements and support from 300 local Republican Party officials across the state, including Gov. Phil Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour.
In recent weeks, Reeves has faced likability questions from big names in the Republican Party. Five Republican Party elders endorsed Waller over Reeves in April, with former GOP Chairman Billy Powell calling Reeves “arrogant.” Reeves’ favorability ratings have consistently tracked lower than other statewide elected officials.
Waller, meanwhile, has attempted to capitalize on the Reeves likability question with Republican primary voters. Early in the campaign, Waller ran a Facebook ad that read: “Shouldn’t you like your candidate for governor? Now you can.”
The poll released on Friday shows that Waller’s support among conservatives and moderates is slightly stronger than Reeves’.
Of the 205 respondents who labeled themselves “very conservative,” 69 percent said they’d vote for Waller over Hood, while 67 percent said they’d vote for Reeves over Hood. Of the 389 respondents who labeled themselves as “conservative,” Reeves fared better against Hood than Waller, with 73 percent saying they’d vote for Reeves over Hood and 70 percent said they’d vote for Waller over Hood.
Waller performed better than Reeves with moderates in the poll, although Hood easily outperformed both of them. Of the 321 voters who labeled themselves as “moderate,” Waller earned 36 percent while Reeves earned 31 percent.
Voters identifying as “liberal” and “very liberal” overwhelmingly supported Hood.
Split by gender, Waller outperformed Reeves by six points among female respondents and one point among male respondents.