Welcome to The Homestretch, a daily blog featuring the most comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Mississippi governor’s race. This page, curated by the Mississippi Today politics team, will feature the biggest storylines of the 2023 governor’s race at 7 a.m. every day between now and the Nov. 7 election.
From the back of a press gaggle over the weekend, a reporter raised his voice to ask Brandon Presley, the Democratic nominee for governor, a question.
“I don’t know if I hear that much about you in New York and D.C.,” the reporter said. “I imagine some of those folks are supporting your campaign, though, behind the scenes. Do you have a message for Democrats who don’t live in Mississippi about why this is an important race?”
Presley, whose hometown of Nettleton might as well be on another planet from those east coast cities, must have wanted to laugh. He’s been criss-crossing Mississippi the past few months, trying to convince everyday voters who hate national politicians with a deep, burning passion to vote for him in November. And he’s faced false but repeated criticism for months from Republican Gov. Tate Reeves for being tight with national Democrats — bogeymen from big cities who many Mississippians, including most Democrats, just don’t like.
Presley replied, graciously: “My message is for Republicans, Democrats and independents in Mississippi. I’m not worried about a message for the nation.”
National political journalists, the peculiar creatures that they are, have breached the Mississippi state line, having realized recently that we have a race worth covering. You average voters can run, but you cannot hide. They’re out for blood, and they’ll stop at nothing to tell their coastal audiences what’s what in our fine state. Their aim? To guess national political trends and land juicy scoops.
If you want to survive their attack, just point them to your favorite diner. They might not eat the food, but they’ll definitely bother the clientele and claim they got a real sense of place. (Bonus points if you provide them with the folksiest, Mississippi-est quote you can muster … consider practicing by reading some Faulkner.)
Now this jest isn’t descriptive of all national reporters, but there are some legendarily terrible offenders — and usually several of them each Mississippi cycle. They are nosy, they are obsessive, and they are annoying. They arrive with preconceived notions about this state and its people, and they refuse to change their minds or their coverage no matter what they hear from people on the ground.
So why care about national reporters covering Mississippi? Both spectacle and political money — both of which will be imminently affecting Mississippians’ lives.
The stories these reporters write typically create a snowball effect within the national media and political ecosystem: Cable news producers read the Mississippi stories written by the national papers. Anchors pontificate about a race and a place they don’t know. Fanatical viewers and, yes, even political insiders who can’t peel their attention away from Fox News or MSNBC start to sense a trend, and the campaign checks begin to flow. That money finds its way onto TV screens and billboards and social media ads until you cannot go more than 20 minutes without hearing about how great one candidate is and how awful the other is.
If you think you’re tired of the ads right now, just wait a few days. Sources close to both campaigns say they have become inundated with out-of-state press requests, and that’s certain to continue through election day. We won’t even talk about what happens in case of a runoff.
One other thing to watch here: Sometimes, the out-of-town reporters do land a big scoop that can change the course of a race (see: 2017 U.S. Senate race in Alabama). Will one of these intrepid national reporters have an impact on this 2023 governor’s race? We’ll find out soon.
Headlines From The Trail
What We’re Watching
1) Tate Reeves campaign yesterday in the Mississippi Delta, making stops in Yazoo City, Tchula and Hollandale. The Delta is an area of the state where fewer and fewer Republicans live. Four years ago, Reeves picked up no more than 3,500 votes in any Delta county (with the exception of DeSoto County, which is technically the Delta but not like the other counties). A tipster shared with Mississippi Today that Reeves attended a fundraiser Tuesday night at the Greenville home of Johnny McRight, a campaign donor who Reeves reappointed to the Mississippi Community College Board in 2021.
2) Brandon Presley, meanwhile, announced a Wednesday campaign stop in Perry County. Several months ago, the Democrat vowed to visit all 82 Mississippi counties. Political observers struggle to remember a gubernatorial candidate in recent history who achieved that feat. Will Presley fulfill that promise by Nov. 7?
3) Presley continues to hammer Reeves over the state’s TANF scandal, in which at least $77 million was misspent by state officials and their network of appointees and friends. The Democrat’s “war on corruption” rages on.