March 26, 2014 10:23:50 AM
Andy Taggart would be the first to tell you he's a proud Republican.
It's no surprise, then, that he's hopeful Republicans will gain the majority of the Senate after 33 of its 100 seats are contested this year in elections.
The Mississippi attorney is also known as one of the state's leading monitors of the national political landscape and the co-author of "Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2008." He served as former Gov. Kirk Fordice's chief of staff.
Taggart spoke to the Columbus Rotary Club at Lion Hills Golf Club on Tuesday.
His political bent aside, Taggart has to do the homework in order to give an objective, informed prediction on what voters are likely to see happen in national elections.
Sometimes, that pays off. He had the sense before the 2008 presidential election that Republicans were "about to get kicked all over the country." Democratic candidate Barack Obama proceeded to defeat Republican candidate John McCain by 192 electoral votes.
Other times, it doesn't work as well. Taggart said he had Mitt Romney unseating Obama in 2012. The only two states that flipped from blue to red were Indiana and North Carolina. Romney lost handily.
What remains to be seen is how the Senate elections go. Taggart believes Republicans will maintain a majority in the House of Representatives after elections are held for all 435 of those seats. That's easy to predict, he said.
"We now have a very polarized House of Representatives because of the way the districts are drawn," Taggart said. "The nation is not overwhelmingly Republican as the House of Representatives is. The districts for the House of Representatives are very strictly drawn in a polarized way, which results in a whole bunch of Republican districts, a whole bunch of Democrat districts and almost no swing districts, which is not, in my judgment, a healthy thing for the body of politics, no matter how partisan a Republican I may be."
Predicting what will happen in the Senate is more like forecasting the weather, he said. Currently, 45 Senate seats belong to Republicans. If those remain so and six more seats can be picked up by Republicans, they will gain the majority they seek. Two things must happen: Republicans must maintain Georgia and Kentucky, which is not guaranteed depending on who Republicans nominate; and six of seven seats currently held by Democrats must swing back to the red. Romney defeated Obama in all seven of those states two years ago, which include Arkansas, West Virginia, Alaska, Louisiana, South Dakota, Montana and North Carolina.
"Having beaten the president in 2012 doesn't guarantee that a Republican will win in 2014, not by a long shot," Taggart said, "particularly against (four) incumbents. Three of those states (Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia) are now open. I'm counting these as gimmes."
Taggart said he also believes Iowa, Virginia and even Michigan, typically a blue state, are in play for Republican takeovers. The bristly reception of unions in Michigan to the Affordable Care Act is a factor in Republicans having a chance in that state, he said.
Closer to home, Taggart said he believed Sen. Thad Cochran will defeat challenger Chris McDaniel in the June primary and win a seventh term.
"We're now seeing a remarkable phenomenon that is a general proposition. The power structure in (Washington) D.C. seems to be gravitating toward Chris McDaniel... and the political power structure in the state of Mississippi is gravitating toward Sen. Cochran," Taggart said. "I don't think McDaniel could have raised the cash in Mississippi that you really would need to be significantly of concern to Sen. Cochran, but if you have several hundreds of thousands, perhaps even million-plus dollars coming in from out of state making independent expenditures, the campaign doesn't have to raise as much money as it otherwise would. Think whatever you like about the way our current campaign finance laws are drawn in the United States... with the legal ability now of corporations and other major organizations to throw tons of cash into campaigns all over the country, no incumbent is safe."
Taggart said the prospects for a Republican being voted president in 2016 are not particularly promising because of the inability to capture swing states in the Electoral College and identify a clear front-runner early in past campaigns.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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