Last week I received a report that some leaders in Jackson County have found a potentially strong candidate to oppose state Sen. Michael Watson’s bid for a third term in 2015. For many Republicans in Jackson County that would be a welcome addition to next year’s state elections. There’s been no shortage of GOP leaders in that Gulf Coast county who have been trying to find a candidate to face Watson. It’s also no secret that Watson has had far greater ambitions than being a state senator.
However, a strong Republican primary opponent for Watson could find themselves running for an open seat with Watson not in the race. There’s no question that Watson, despite the hits he has taken for his role in fellow state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s U.S. Senate campaign, may run for statewide office rather than re-election. The presumed contest would be to challenge Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ re-election bid. Either way, Watson’s political career could very well be derailed. Reeves would trounce Watson in a statewide race.
Watson has alienated so many people in Jackson County and in state GOP circles that he would have a major problem raising money for a statewide campaign. The national tea party and other national groups that supported McDaniel against Cochran are not going to invest in a state race. Tea party activists in the state don’t have deep enough pockets to give Watson a strong financial base.
If he runs for re-election to the state senate he could also be defeated. In the past Watson has shown an interest in running against incumbent Fourth District Congressman Steven Palazzo. There are a lot of people who thought Palazzo had no chance to defeat then-incumbent Gene Taylor in 2010. That doesn’t mean there was a shortage of would-be Republican congressman hopefuls from South Mississippi. Palazzo either had the guts or was naïve enough to think he could beat Taylor, and he did. Too late for the other Republican hopefuls that were afraid to run against Taylor.
Actually, Palazzo’s primary race this year against Taylor, who switched parties to run as a Republican, was not very impressive. Taylor soundly thumped Palazzo in the three Gulf Coast counties, home to both men, but Palazzo handily won Pearl River County, the Pine Belt counties of Jones, Lamar, Forest, and several rural counties in the northern part of the district. Palazzo may still be vulnerable in the future, but it certainly won’t be to a challenge from Michael Watson.
Watson’s own political career has certainly not been helped by his very close association with his friend and colleague Chris McDaniel. In a previous post, I mentioned that a few years ago a leading Republican in the state commented that Watson expected to be president by the time he reached age 50. That won’t happen. Instead, Watson’s political obituary could be written a year from now.