Jim Hood, the attorney general who next week faces Tate Reeves in the governor’s election, is being criticized for keeping his distance from other Mississippi Democrats on the ballot.
The criticism is understandable, but so is Hood’s thinking in deciding to run on his own — to stay out of everybody else’s race, as he described advice years ago from his father.
Barring a completely unexpected turn of events, each of the other Democrats seeking statewide office next Tuesday will lose to their Republican opponent. Hood is the only Democrat with a reasonable chance of victory, and with virtually no margin of error, it does not help Hood to be working with candidates who are likely to lose.
The decision may have come down to whether Hood wanted to be a loyal Democrat or be the next governor. To upset Reeves, Hood needs more support from white voters. Several of the statewide Democratic candidates are black, which is a good thing in terms of political participation but reinforces white Mississippi voters’ perception that Democrats are little more in the state than a minority party.
In fact, the left-lurching Democratic Party’s second-class status in Mississippi is the biggest threat to Hood’s chances of winning.
For example, he supports gun rights and says he personally opposes abortion — two positions that work fine in Mississippi but are completely against what national Democrats stand for. And one of his best ads, tweaking Reeves for his link to a road-building controversy, featured Hood at his good-ole-boy best, pickup truck included.
To that extent, Hood is out of step with much of the Democratic Party, so it’s no surprise that he’s kept to himself during the campaign. The strategy gives him the best chance of winning.
The odds remain against him. A Mason-Dixon poll last week showed Reeves leading by 3 percentage points, and the lieutenant governor is sure to get a boost when President Trump and Vice President Pence visit Mississippi in the next few days.
Still, if Reeves does win, Hood did the state a favor by making his opponent more willing to invest some money. With great fanfare, Reeves this month unveiled an ambitious plan to raise teacher salaries. It’s hard to imagine that happening without a serious Democratic challenger.