|Rep. Tommy Reynolds (D-Charleston)|
Now that the House has approved its redistricting plan, it's time to look back at what happened, what didn't happen, and what it all means.
Rep. Tommy Reynolds (D-Charleston) displayed absolute mastery of the legislative and redistricting process. Responsible for creating a map that would satisfy the Department of Justice, incumbents of both parties, election commissioners, and municipal officials across Mississippi, Rep. Reynolds managed to pull it off with characteristic poise. Undoubtedly, Hercules faced an easier task at the Augean stables.
So how did he do it? Well, he worked with incumbent Republicans to ensure that they'd be on-board with the plan when it came out. Take, for instance, Rep. Bill Denny (R-Jackson), the House Republican Floor Leader. Rep. Denny's district added the wealthy Eastover neighborhood and dropped a Ridgeland box that was trending Democratic, essentially insulating him from challenge. This pattern was repeated across Mississippi. Republicans outside of the House called it "packing." Republicans inside the House called it "insurance."
Results of a Republican straw poll before the vote Friday showed that they had only 20 votes in opposition to the House plan. In response, new MSGOP Executive Director Arnie Hederman and Rep. Mark Baker (D-Brandon) attempted to enforce party discipline on the Republican side of the chamber. That's awfully hard to do when you're asking your members to vote against a plan they really like. Nevertheless, the MSGOP threatened Republican members with a loss of support in their reelection bids if they voted for the House plan. Four Republicans bucked their party, and that ensured the plan's success. It also allowed the 29 House Republicans in favor of the plan to cover their rear with the MSGOP. In short, they "took one for the team."
What didn't happen
The Republican Party never offered an alternative House plan. There had been predictions Friday that the House Republicans would offer an alternative, and that they had 63 votes for it. Ultimately, those predictions were way off-base. Despite what Yallpolitics.com's Friday headline "YP BREAKING - Republicans hold strong against Billy McCoy redistricting plan in the House" might lead you to believe, no Republican even rose to speak against the House plan. And Saturday morning, the Republicans didn't even have enough opposition to the plan to cause a roll call vote.
Friday, MSGOP Executive Director Arnie Hederman called on folks across the state to light up the Capitol switchboard, call talk radio, and wear out the internet in opposition to the House plan. He wasn't alone, as his request was repeated ad infinitum by party operatives online. Turns out, Mississippians had a hard time getting worked up over what was clearly a partisan political game. The Republican battle cry never took root in the throats of House Republicans, let alone everyday Mississippians, and the fight ended with a whimper, not a bang.
Here's a photo of the less-than-impressive Republican turnout in the gallery this morning as the House was to begin discussing the motion to reconsider:
|4's a crowd?|
What it all means
As Haley Barbour turns his attention to a presidential bid, the party discipline he instituted is already beginning to fade away. In what was their first glimpse of what life will be like post-Haley,
Mississippi Republicans can't be happy.
All eyes are now on the Senate, where Phil Bryant is trying to safely navigate the waters. If he reveals his own Senate plan in opposition to the Senate plan drawn by the committee he appointed, he'll lose whatever high ground he gained himself by appointing a bipartisan committee. And if Bryant delays the process at all, he'll force two elections, which won't exactly make him Mr. Popularity heading into a contested GOP primary.
In the end, it's leaders like Rep. Reynolds that keep Republicans flummoxed in the House. Even Majority in Mississippi reported word from a Republican strategist that Rep. Reynolds had "outfoxed" House Republicans on redistricting. The institutional knowledge in the House belongs to Democrats, and it showed with this. Reynolds pitted the interests of House Republicans against the wants of the MSGOP, and it was a masterstroke.
***Updated at 9:30 p.m. on 3/6/11 to clarify that it wasn't Majority in Mississippi that used the term "outfoxed." Instead, MIM simply reported what it had been told.***