This past weekend Republicans from across Mississippi gathered in Jackson to choose their party leadership, approve a platform and select delegates to the Republican National Convention later this summer in Tampa where the GOP will formally nominate Mitt Romney to challenge President Barack Obama in November.

As is typical, the convention was part work and part pep rally. Elected officials addressed the Republican faithful at receptions and the convention with a clear excitement at the prospect of continuing GOP domination in Mississippi and the hope to change to a new President this January. Republican Chairman Joe Nosef, who was elected to a full four year term at the convention, announced the switch of four more Democratic elected officials from Jones County and Leake County to the GOP. National Committeeman Henry Barbour and National Committeewoman Jeanne Luckey were both reelected.

Conventions typically contain a few clashes among traditional Republicans as various factions from local counties argue for their inclusion and their opponents' exclusion. This year was no exception but added as well was an infusion of energy from Tea Party activists and supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. This was my fourth state Republican Convention to attend and it appeared to me the most inclusive in my experience. Unlike 2000 when a caucus slate was actually partially broken, those nominated to serve on the executive committee and as national delegates were approved without a hitch. Meanwhile, the party platform was amended from the floor of the convention to increase attention on the national debt.

Friday night, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran addressed conventioneers at a reception where he sounded like a person running for re-election. Cochran is third among Republican Senators in seniority behind Richard Lugar of Indiana (who lost his primary reelection this year) and Orrin Hatch of Utah who faces reelection this year.

My general rule for incumbents who are not term limited is they are running again until they're not.

My general rule for incumbents who are not term limited is they are running again until they're not. Despite speculation among those who would like to take his place, at this point there is no evidence that Cochran is ready to retire. Were Republicans to retake the Senate, he could resume his position as Chairman of Appropriations and be one seat away from serving as President pro tempore - a position last held by a Mississippian in 1989 by John C. Stennis. Cochran's colleague, Senator Roger Wicker, addressed the convention on Saturday.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour also attended the convention. The former Chairman of the Republican National Committee remains involved as a member of the Yazoo County Republican Committee.

On the same day Republicans met in Jackson, Democrats gathered in Poplarville for their Fourth Congressional District Caucus meeting where they unanimously endorsed Rickey Cole of Ovett as a candidate to be the State Democratic Chairman. Cole previously served as Democratic Chairman from 2001-2004 and has been his party's nominee for U.S. Senate and Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. According to the Hattiesburg American speakers included, Michael Herrington, the Democratic nominee against incumbent Republican Congressman Steven Palazzo; and Al Gore, Jr., who is not the former Vice President from Tennessee but rather a retired minister from Starkville challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker. Herrington spoke on the need for more federal spending to create jobs and argued cutting taxes to create jobs is "nonsense."

Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, defeated by Barbour in 2003 and then by Wicker in 2008, reportedly said in his keynote address that the "Republican-led state government" had failed to fund education since he left office in 2004, "They have given us skyrocketing college tuition, and they are determined not to invest in our universities and not to invest in our community colleges. It's a crying shame. They are going to make sure, before it is over with, that students don't have a chance to go to college."

I enjoy political rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle, both to argue policy as well as to influence elections. The problem with this particular claim is voters already adjudicated its veracity. University and community college funding was a major issue during the 2003 gubernatorial election when Barbour challenged and defeated Musgrove. In 2003, Barbour claimed under the Musgrove administration, the budget for community colleges was cut by 16 percent ($32 million) and the budget for universities was cut by 7 percent ($45 million). The year previous - 2002 - community colleges received 23 percent less ($47 million) state support than under Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice. In his 2006 document, "Promises Made, Promises Kept" looking back at his first term, Barbour noted funding for community colleges increased 29 percent ($50 million) with a 16 percent increase for universities ($93 million).

Conventions serve a party organizing function and provide opportunity for rhetoric and messaging. They're fun for political junkies but a poor substitute for the Neshoba County Fair which is just under ten weeks away.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.