MERIDIAN — Which of the 13 candidates for governor of Mississippi are you for?

Huh? There are 13?

Yep, three Republicans, nine Democrats and one independent.

As the Associated Press explained, “The top of the ticket for Mississippi’s 2019 statewide election could feature the most competitive governor’s race since 2003, but a dearth of strong Democratic candidates down the ballot shows the party’s continued weakness in Mississippi.

“Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will be favorites in their respective Aug. 6 primaries, but each will have to get past some serious challengers. Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith is challenging Hood in the Democratic field, along with seven lesser-known candidates (Michael Brown, William Bond Compton Jr., Robert J. Ray, Gregory Wash, Phillip West, Velesha Perkins Williams and Albert Wilson). On the GOP side, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster of Hernando will try to upset Reeves.”

Giving credence to the AP’s competitiveness assessment, some early polls showed Hood beating Reeves and more recent ones showed Waller close to Reeves despite his late entry. With just over 120 days left until the first August primary, partisan campaigns must determine and kick off their winning strategies now.

What sort of strategies?

Well, issues, money, name ID, and turnout determine who wins and who loses. Winning candidates uncover the issues that best resonate with likely voters, align themselves with those issues in voters’ minds, and motivate those voters to turn out on Election Day. Money plays a key role in candidates’ ability to do these things.

It may sound simple, but it’s not. There are thousands of thick books, complex guides, and YouTube videos on how to win elections. But winning candidates are usually those who pick the best campaign managers, develop the best organizations, pick the right issue messages and raise enough money, not necessarily the most, to implement campaign strategies.

Issues can be unpredictable wild cards, even though many key issues are predictable. You can count on taxes as a top issue in the Republican primary, education in the Democratic primary. While those are top issues, the differences among party candidates on them may be virtually nonexistent. That lets other issues take precedence, issues such as race, character, religion, experience or specific programs, such as mental health care, highways or school choice.

Polls (which cost money) can help candidates select the best issues and guard against risky ones, but they can’t predict when a new issue or unanticipated nuance to an old issue will pop up.

Opening slogans or statements from candidates can give you a hint on their issue choices (not all are on record yet).

Tate Reeves: Spend less, borrow less, tax less, promises kept. Jim Hood: Putting Mississippi families first. Bill Waller: Improve infrastructure, health care, workforce training and education. Robert Shuler Smith: Trust, experience and reliability. Robert Foster: Man of faith, farmer, conservative outsider. Velesha Perkins Williams: Health care for all, quality education, economic stability. Robert J. Ray: Fix Mississippi’s many problems with my professional development process. Albert Wilson: Bring 21st century jobs and salaries to Mississippi while improving quality of living for all Mississippians, not just the privileged few. Big Dave Singletary: Bring prosperity and health to Mississippi citizens.

What’s your favorite issue?

Bill Crawford is a Republican former state lawmaker from Meridian.

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