Mississippi Burning

Loss of GOP House seat is another sign of things to come.

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Even if Sen. John McCain should win the presidency in November, he is almost certain to face a more Democratic, and perhaps hostile, Congress.

The latest evidence is a stunning result in a GOP congressional district in Mississippi. A district south of the Memphis suburbs, one of the most conservative in the nation, elected a Democrat in a special election yesterday. And the margin was a comfortable 8 points.

As if Republicans even needed a wake-up call. There have been three special elections for GOP vacancies in recent weeks in Illinois (former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat, no less), Louisiana, and now Mississippi. All have gone to Democratic candidates.

The message is clear: Voters are angry with the Bush-Cheney administration, and some punishment is forthcoming. The economy, the war in Iraq, and the president's bull-headedness on the environment and energy are all in play.

In Mississippi, the GOP pulled out all the stops to save candidate Greg Davis. Vice President Cheney (of all people) came in to help, as did a more popular Gov. Haley Barbour. The race card didn't work either with a Republican reminder that Sen. Barack Obama would be the near-certain presidential nominee in November.

Through all this, Democrat Travis Childers survived everything thrown at him. This came in a congressional district once held by Jamie Whitten, perhaps one of the more virulent racists in the South.

Curtis Wilkie, a professor at Ole Miss, noted that even some GOP businessmen were out of sorts with Davis's sledgehammer campaign. Voters, he said, were not fooled by the attacks on Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the "liberals" in Washington.

Some Republican members of Congress, especially those who won narrowly in 2006, are more than nervous. Some are calling for a shake-up in the party's congressional campaign committee.

Even if the committee makes changes, it may be too late: Bush and Cheney will still be around in November as a reminder to all of us.