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New Governor’s Race Poll Shows Reeves Leading Presley by Just One Point

By Adam Ganucheau

Mississippi Today

Welcome to The Homestretch, a daily blog featuring the most comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Mississippi governor’s race. This page, curated by the Mississippi Today politics team, will feature the biggest storylines of the 2023 governor’s race at 7 a.m. every day between now and the Nov. 7 election.

If you’ve wondered why the Democratic Governors Association has pumped a historic amount of money into Brandon Presley’s 2023 campaign, you might get your answer later today.

The Washington-based organization that works to get Democratic governors elected will publicly release a poll today that shows Republican incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves leading Presley by just one point, according to a memo shared with Mississippi Today.

The poll shows Reeves leading Presley 46% to 45%, with nearly 10% still undecided 15 days from the election. The poll also shows that among those undecided voters, 68% have an unfavorable opinion of Reeves, while just 2% view him favorably.

If accurate, the poll also shows both candidates well below the 50%-plus-one threshold needed to avoid a runoff. A third candidate, independent Gwendolyn Gray, dropped out of the race in early October and endorsed Presley, but her announced exit came too late to be removed from the ballot. She could earn enough votes to keep Reeves or Presley from reaching 50%, which would push those two candidates to a Nov. 28 runoff election.

The Democratic Governors Association has pumped at least $3.75 million into Presley’s campaign this year, which is an unprecedented Mississippi investment from a single group affiliated with the national Democratic Party. That sum helped Presley out-raise Reeves over the past three months — a feat that very few political observers expected. 

To add some context to this year’s DGA investment, the same group gave Democratic nominee Jim Hood just $2.4 million in his race against Reeves four years ago. And this year in neighboring Louisiana, one of two other states with a 2023 governor’s election, the DGA invested about $300,000 total.

A word of warning about this poll and any others you’ll see between now and November: ‘tis the season for skewed polling leaks. Given their investment in one candidate in the race, the uber-politically affiliated DGA could very well have reason to release numbers that don’t tell a complete picture.

But here’s what we do know: The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, a reputable North Carolina-based firm that has an A-minus rating from the industry standard FiveThirtyEight pollster rating service. This pollster, according to the memo shared with Mississippi Today, surveyed 601 Mississippi voters via a mix of text message and phone calls from October 19-20, and the margin of error is 4%.

There are reasons to buy this latest poll’s numbers. This new poll, like others before it, shows Reeves underwater on favorability. Of the new poll’s total respondents, according to the memo, 51% have an unfavorable opinion of Reeves and just 33% view him favorably.

Presley, on the other hand, has a marginal favorable rating among all the poll’s respondents (36% favorable to 31% unfavorable), but the poll memo shows the Democratic nominee still has a major name ID problem — something that also mirrors other public polling released earlier this year. In all, 32% of the poll’s respondents are unsure of their opinion of Presley.

The poll that shows neither candidate particularly close to the 50% mark also tracks with buzz among Republican and Democratic politicos over the past week or two. Political operatives on both sides in Mississippi continue to openly speculate about the runoff possibility. And both campaigns, according to several sources, are said to be preparing for the possibility of a three-week November sprint to the runoff election.

Accurate or not, this new DGA poll will rattle the state’s political ground and attract even more national attention to the race. Just 15 days out, there’s plenty of drama.

Headlines From The Trail

House Minority Leader Robert Johnson: Black turnout could be key in upcoming election

The racist origins of runoff elections, which Mississippi may see in November governor’s race

Just 16 days out, here are the biggest storylines of the Mississippi governor’s race

Democrat Brandon Presley looks ahead to the November election

Reeves vs. Presley: Hear from both Mississippi governor candidates ahead of November’s election

What We’re Watching

1) How low, exactly, is Republican enthusiasm? The concern is there among many politicos, but can Reeves leverage his many millions on ginning up the GOP base?

2) What will enthusiasm look like on the Democratic side? Presley is clearly targeting Black voters — the base of the Democratic Party. In the last three weekends, he’s gone to three different HBCU tailgates (Alcorn State two weeks ago, Jackson State last weekend, and Mississippi Valley State this weekend).

3) Can Presley win broader support in northeast Mississippi than Jim Hood did in 2019? It’s a region of the state that Trump won definitively and Reeves won handily four years ago. The Democratic nominee campaigned Sunday in northeast Mississippi.

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