5 Lessons From Deep South Political Primaries

Sometimes, even the best campaign ad in history can't save you

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Both political parties held a number of important primaries in Alabama and Mississippi last night. They contained all the political mayhem of 2010: party-switching, Tea Party candidates, and primary challenges to sitting incumbents. We'll give you the bad news up front: Despite his incredible campaign ad, Dale Peterson lost his bid to be the GOP nominee for Alabama Agriculture Commission. Here are some of the lessons from the rest of the races.

  • Party Switching Is Bad  ABC News' Teddy Davis points out that Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter lost his primary after switching parties and now a similar fate has befallen an Alabama Congressman. "Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith, a Democrat-turned-Republican, was soundly defeated in Tuesday's GOP primary. ... House GOP leaders promised that they would back him. Griffith struggled, however, to persuade rank and file Republican primary voters that his switch was about more than political opportunism."
  • Fox News Doesn't Win Elections  The Washington Post's David Weigel writes, "In February, Fox News pundit Angela McGlowan, a black woman who often comments on how the Democratic Party undermines black Americans, announced her candidacy for Mississippi's 1st District at the National Tea Party Convention. She immediately became much-cited evidence of how the tea party was challenging the GOP and how black Republicans were finding their footing. ... But there was little evidence of real grass-roots support for McGlowan. She raised only $87,093, which included $12,372 from her own pocket, and last night she scored only 15 percent of the vote in her primary." Weigel cites her time spent on Fox News versus the campaign trail.
  • Black Politicians Aren't Guaranteed Black Votes  The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates looks at Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, who is black and "got walloped" in the Democratic primary for Alabama governor, which he was heavily favored to win. "The underlying premise seems to be that Davis was somehow entitled to black votes." However, "Davis reps a majority black district where one in five people lack health-care, but voted against the health care bill. You don't get to just stand in front the people and say 'Hey I'm black and smart' and then wait for the torrent of civic pride."
  • Dems: Moving Right Hurts You  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer suggests, "Just would like to point out that it hasn't been a good primary season for Dems tacking right." He is presumably citing Artur Davis as well as Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter (who actually move to the left from moderate Republican to moderate Democrat, but was still defeated by a more liberal primary challenger).
  • Tea Parties Have 'Mixed' Success  The Washington Post's Aaron Blake finds "a mixed night for the Tea Party." Rep. Parker Griffith lost the GOP primary to a Tea Party-backed challenger. However, "The tea party didn’t fare as well elsewhere. It wasn’t able to make much of a dent against the GOP favorites to face Reps. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Bobby Bright (D-Ala.). Establishment favorite and state Sen. Alan Nunnelee won outright in the primary to face Childers, while top NRCC recruit and Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby was close behind, just missing avoiding a runoff."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.