Bush visit overshadows Shows campaign
August 11, 2002
Ronnie Shows has had better weeks.
First, he gave an unremarkable performance in an Aug. 1 debate with Chip Pickering at the Neshoba County Fair. Six days later, President George W. Bush visited Mississippi on Pickering's behalf.
Shows' response to the presidential visit was blunt: He blasted Pickering's $1,000-a-person campaign fund-raiser that Bush headlined at the Hilton in Jackson. Shows said it was too expensive and unnecessary.
That same day, Shows held a rally across from a Brandon manufacturing plant that is expected to close. There, he criticized U.S. trade practices the Bush administration has supported and has led to several plant closings.
But Shows was drowned by the weight of a rare presidential visit to the state. Let's face it: It's hard to top a presidential appearance especially by a popular one who convincingly carried the state in 2000.
Besides that, the president's visit highlights the political hurdles Shows must overcome if he hopes to wrest control of the state's newly re-drawn 3rd Congressional District.
Shows, a Democrat, now represents the 4th District, while Pickering, a Republican, represents the 3rd District.
The two U.S. House members were thrown together in this year's congressional elections after redistricting eliminated one of Mississippi's five U.S. House seats.
Shows is an expert campaigner whose political savvy helped him move from county office, to state office and then to Congress. He effortlessly works a crowd and relates easily one-on-one with people.
But now he faces his toughest fight in a new congressional district more favorable to Pickering. Indeed, Pickering appears to have the upper hand three months before the election.
Pickering has attacked Shows' support for the Democratic leadership in House. Pickering asked Shows at the Neshoba County Fair debate how he could vote to support such liberal leadership.
Shows' campaign, meanwhile, has issued an endless barrage of press releases attacking Pickering for his House votes and his campaign contributions from bankrupt WorldCom.
For weeks now, Shows' campaign has been absorbed with slamming their opponent instead of touting their boss.
That brings us back to Shows' rally Wednesday in front of the Presto Manufacturing plant in Brandon, which he said is expected to close in November and leave 200 people jobless.
Shows said those jobs are moving to Mexico, where labor is significantly less expensive. That, he said, highlights problems with policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement.
And for one of the few times of the campaign, Shows touched an issue free trade that many political observers say Democrats nationally must use if they want a chance to win congressional office.
With less than three months to go, Shows has time to mount such a campaign, explain his stand and avoid political mud-slinging that often mars Mississippi races.
If not, Pickering could maintain the upper hand thanks to momentum from the Bush visit. And Shows' weeks will only get longer.