Davis, GOP change strategy on MS-1

Campaigns and Elections - Davis Says Running Against Obama Won't Work - The incumbent candidate in Mississippi's 1st district congressional race is a pro-gun, pro-life, fiscal conservative-and he's the Democrat. Therein lies the challenge for Republican Greg Davis, who is running again this fall in a re-match of the most highly publicized special election that the GOP lost this spring. In May, Democrat Travis Childers beat Davis in a district where George Bush won 62 percent of the vote in 2004. That defeat, says Davis, provides a valuable strategic lesson. "We're going to spend more time going out there and meeting with voters and letting them know who I am, and less on the contrast ads which just didn't work," Davis says, referring to ads that tried to link Childers to presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

Both Davis and the Mississippi GOP say they realize the negative ads linking Childers to Obama and the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright didn't do the trick for conservative voters in northern Mississippi. "The campaign this time around has to be about what Davis is-not what Childers isn't," says Cory Adair, a spokesman for the Mississippi Republican Party. "They completely hijacked the Republican platform," he says, referring to Childers' successful marketing of himself as a conservative during the special election on such issues as the second amendment, abortion, and immigration.

Whatever the Republican strategy, Childers is going out of his way to not provide the GOP any opening to link him to the presumptive Democratic nominee. Rep. Childers says he will not even attend the party's national convention in Denver this August. "It's reflective of who he is, he's not a party guy," says John Rowley, a media consultant for the Childers campaign, who insists the decision not to attend the convention stemmed from the congressman's busy schedule and was not part of a campaign strategy to deliberately shy away from Obama.

Both sides agree that the race in Mississippi 1 will come down to who's better on the economy. Rowley says Childers will continue to hit home on his message of fiscal responsibility from the special election. Similarly, Davis says he'll put more emphasis on his economic record as mayor of Southaven, including the $5.2 million surplus he presided over there.

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