A Pre-Primary Tour of Mississippi

Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's campaigns descended on this southern state in a bid to grab the 33 delegates up for grabs in Tuesday's primary. Joseph Parker, a professor of political science at University of Southern Mississippi, says that for one of the candidates, it may be too late.

What's the vibe on the ground? Parker says people haven't had much time to get excited. "I don't know whether the candidates were thinking about Mississippi," he says. "And I don't know if Mississippi was thinking about the candidates."

There is one interesting wrinkle to tomorrow's contest: the state was granted the right to hold a closed primary. But down south, there's a friendly enforcement program: It's the honor system. If you're challenged at the polling place, Parker says, and you're not actually a member of the party whose primary you intend to vote in, you can say this: "Yes, but I intend to vote for the party in the election." Parker says he's watched Mississippi primaries for thirty years, and he's never seen a challenge. "So effectively it's an open primary."

Who's in the lead? Back in Iowa earlier this year, Hillary criticized that state for not electing a woman governor, comparing it to none other than Mississippi for its inability to appoint a female leader. "That didn't go over so well," Parker says. "I call it a gratuitous insult." Has Hillary made some inroads? Parker says she was in Hattiesburg and had an enthusiastic reception. "But people showing up at a rally does not translate into votes," he says. Obama is expected to win tomorrow's contest.

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