In last night’s gubernatorial debate, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves repeatedly described himself as a conservative–sometimes as the only “real” conservative–while lambasting his opponent, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller, for having liberal ideas. Those allegedly liberal notions involve Medicaid reform and increasing the gasoline tax. Both of these measures have received support from Republicans not named Tate Reeves.
When given the chance to summarize his views, Reeves, who earned 49% of the vote in the primary, associated Waller with “Obamacare” and returned to three of Mississippi’s most beloved political chestnuts: being a strong supporter of the right to life movement, the right to bear arms, and the free expression of religion. His words will be embraced by culturally conservative voters across the state.
Waller, on the other hand, resisted the temptation to boil policy down to soundbites, and turned viewers’ attention to issues that he believes affect all Mississippians: better education, welfare and infrastructure.
The real question for Mississippi Republicans may come to this: will their base get more fired up about ideology or pragmatism?