JACKSON, MS: A Mississippi gubernatorial election is shaping up as one of the year’s tightest races, and the candidate who makes best use of PR will almost certainly emerge triumphant.
JACKSON, MS: A Mississippi gubernatorial election is shaping up as
one of the year’s tightest races, and the candidate who makes best use
of PR will almost certainly emerge triumphant.
Atlanta-based GOP pollster Whit Ayres last week emphasized that PR will
represent the balance of power in this and other competitive southern
statewide elections. ’Assuming equal resources, the winner will be the
one who controls the message and who targets it most effectively,’ he
Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky are the only three states electing
governors this year, and national political parties - not to mention the
news media - are viewing these contests as test markets for gauging the
effectiveness of political PR appeals.
Lessons learned in these campaigns will be incorporated into key appeals
during the pivotal 2000 election.
In Mississippi, both candidates have been wielding the PR sabre in the
weeks leading up to the vote. Republican nominee Mike Parker released
the results from an August survey (commissioned by the Republican
Governors Association) that shows a dead heat, with Parker edging out
his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, by two percentage
points. Parker was quick to spin the survey, however, to emphasize one
key finding: his 40% to 28% lead over Musgrove among a key swing group,
the 16% of the electorate which votes on a candidate-by-candidate basis
rather than strictly along party lines. Throughout much of the South,
such voters tend to be Democrats who are uncomfortable with the national
party but do not feel comfortable aligning themselves with the GOP.
Another poll, commissioned by an independent group, put Musgrove’s lead
in double figures.
Parker is a former US Representative who flip-flopped from his previous
Democratic affiliation and now holds the GOP line on most issues.
Musgrove has placed strong emphasis on education.
Both candidates have assembled extensive and well-respected PR
Brandon, MS-based Gene Clark is Parker’s media consultant, while
Musgrove has tapped the experience of media consultant Bill Carrick of
Carrick Morris Guma.
A Democratic victory in Mississippi after eight years of GOP rule would
be proof that the party can craft a winning message. ’It would be one
more sign that our party’s governors can combine a message of fiscal
responsibility with solid social values on issues such as healthcare and
education,’ said Democratic Governors Association’s communications
director John Hochstetter.