Republicans in Mississippi are anxious to express their choice on which candidate can best represent their party and challenge the incumbent Democrat President Barack Obama. Mississippi and Alabama hold their primaries on March 13 (Hawaii conducts a caucus that day as well), a week after Super Tuesday's ten-state competition. An additional eleven primary or caucus contests will also be concluded between Florida's January 31 Primary and the time Mississippians go to the polls. Politics changes quicker than the weather and political prognosticators do not share the scientific accuracy of meteorology. But typically parties have their presumptive nominee before Mississippi gets to vote. That was not the case with Democrats in 2008; and may not be the case with Republicans in 2012.

Mississippi Republicans traditionally vote in landslide with the presumptive nominee in open primary elections: 2008 John McCain with 78.9 percent; 2000 George W. Bush with 87.9 percent; 1996 Bob Dole with 60.3 percent; 1988 with George H.W. Bush 66.0 percent.

But whether the Republican Primary in Mississippi has national impact, or merely puts a stamp on an already clear race, GOP voters still have an opportunity to show their preference, even if their ideal candidate has dropped out of the race.

According to the Secretary of State, U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and Texas Governor Rick Perry - all of whom have suspended their campaigns - will still be on the Mississippi Republican ballot. Also on the ballot with be former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson who has dropped out of the Republican Primary and is running as a Libertarian. (These candidates did not timely notify the Secretary of State, pursuit to statute, they intended to withdraw.)

Of course the four candidates currently still competing - former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum - will be on the ballot as well.


Mississippians in both parties have less than six weeks to make up their minds and observe how the political wind is blowing.



Mississippi Republicans also will make primary choices for U.S. Senate and three U.S. Representatives. Incumbent Senator Roger Wicker, who defeated former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove in a special election for the Senate in 2008 by nearly ten points, brings a $2 million campaign war chest to the cycle. National Journal ranks Wicker the tenth most conservative U.S. Senator. He faces retired veteran and self-styled "Christian Tea Party Republican" E. Allen Hathcock of Stewart who lost a campaign for Webster County Supervisor in 2011 in the Republican Primary. Also in the race is Robert Maloney of Madison who lost a campaign for Madison County Supervisor to Democrat Karl Banks in 2011.

Incumbent First District Congressman Alan Nunnelee will rematch with one of his 2010 Primary opponents, former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross. Nunnelee won a three-way primary that year with 51.8 percent of the vote; Ross took 33 percent of the vote. DeSoto County businessman Robert Estes joins the ballot and promises to run a spirited grassroots campaign. Nunnelee's campaign has $342,766 cash-on-hand; Estes reported zero on his initial report; Ross reports $51,426 cash-on-hand (loaned to the campaign by the candidate).

In the Second Congressional District, Republican Bill Marcy - the 2010 GOP nominee - is unopposed in the Republican Primary to once again square off against incumbent Democrat Bennie Thompson (assuming Thompson wins his own primary).

Third District Congressman Gregg Harper will be opposed by Starkville Tea Party member Robert J. Allen, retired from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs who now "works part time supporting the central Mississippi catfish farming industry at the Fish Diagnostics Laboratory at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine," according to his web site. Allen lectures on creation and evolution and refuting atheism. Harper, seeking his third term, reports $160,420 cash-on-hand.

Fourth District Rep. Steven Palazzo rocked the state in 2010 when he unseated long time incumbent Democrat Gene Taylor. This year Palazzo, who reports $264,408 cash-on-hand, faces two challenges in the Republican Primary both from Hattiesburg: peace activist Cindy Burleson and Tea Party member Ron Vincent. Palazzo will host Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor at a fundraiser Feb. 4 in Gulfport.

While President Obama faces no opposition in his primary, Democrats do have a chance to vote on March 13. There is a three way race for U.S. Senate between Al Gore, Jr. (not the former Vice President) of Starkville, Will Oatis of Silver Creek and Dr. Roger Weiner of Clarksdale. Weiner, a Coahoma County Supervisor, made headlines in 2009 for an arrest in a federal prostitution sting at the Shady Nook gas station. Thompson faces a primary in the Second District against former Greenville Mayor Heather McTeer. Michael Herrington of Hattiesburg and Jason Vitosky of Gulfport will face off to determine the Democratic nominee in the Fourth District.

Mississippians - Republicans and Democrats - have less than six weeks to make up their minds and observe how the political wind is blowing.





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