Reporter Adam Nossiter, who strongly hinted that white racism cost a black Democrat a Senate seat in Tennessee in 2006, ventured into Mississippi and found a Democratic gubernatorial candidate attacking the popular Gov. Haley Barbour from the (religious) right for Wednesday's "In Mississippi, Democrat Runs in G.O.P. Lane."
"The candidate is running to serve his Creator. He is running to restore prayer in schools, bring Jesus into public discourse, force the 'money changers' from the state capitol, and move his extensive gun collection into the governor's mansion.
"It is not extraordinary in the local context, except that John Arthur Eaves Jr., the man saying these things, is the Democratic candidate for governor of Mississippi. And the politician he is trying to unseat with these shots from the right is a Republican star, Gov. Haley Barbour.
"And indeed Mr. Barbour looks ever more irritated by this upstart challenger's talk of God-and-guns and banning abortion - a mirror-image strategy some call logical in this toughest of regions for Democrats.
"The Mississippi governor, riding high on an image of competence after Hurricane Katrina, is unlikely to be toppled in the election, on Nov. 6, say analysts and even friends of Mr. Eaves, a born-again, largely self-financed trial lawyer wealthy from asbestos litigation and other cases who won the Democratic primary in August.
"But the hybrid campaign - equal parts born-again Christian fervor and attacks on the 'big tobacco companies, big oil companies, big insurance' that Mr. Eaves says are behind the campaign of Mr. Barbour, a former lobbyist - illustrates the steep challenges faced by Democrats in a region that has remained stubbornly loyal to Republicans, even as they lose ground everywhere else."
"Already, this most unorthodox of Democratic campaigns - a strange contortion of swings from the far right, aimed from the left - is attracting attention, some grass-roots support in a Deep South state with a history of hardshell populism, and enough last-minute scorn from Mr. Barbour that Eaves workers are gleeful merely at having forced the powerful incumbent on the attack. "
Nossiter noted in one paragraph that national Democrats have shunned the race, but seems more tickled than disturbed by the Democratic candidate's blatant religiosity. The story also contains ha classic from the "What if a Republican had said that?" department:
"'I'm a Democrat because Democrats invest in people; I'm a Democrat because I'm a Christian,' he said in a recent interview, after shaking hands at a diner in the courthouse town of Kosciusko. 'Jesus came to help the people. He healed the sick, and he tried to help the poor. The Democrats' core fiber is to help people. That was Jesus' mission.'"
Nossiter didn't comment on Eaves' blatant insistence that the proper place for a Christian is the Democratic Party. Imagine a Republican governor saying the same thing and the Times shrugging it off so easily. For instance, when former Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice said America was a "Christian nation" at the 1992 Republican Governors Association, the Times devoted eight stories and an editorial to the incident.