Will House GOP Lose Deep South Seat?

Davis is also still suffering the aftereffects of a bitter primary against former Tupelo Mayor Glenn McCullough, in which Davis accused his rival of unethical behavior when heading the Tennessee Valley Authority. McCullough has not actively supported Davis, and the negative primary campaign appears to have given voters pause.

"I'm a Republican from the governor on down, but I would write someone else's name in before I would vote for Davis," said Curtis Ryan, a businessman from Tupelo. "It's a proven fact that Glenn McCullough let him get away with these negative attacks."

The stylistic differences between the two candidates are apparent. Davis hasn't spoken in any of his commercials since winning the nomination, instead relying on a narrator and his wife to deliver his campaign's message.

Childers, with his down-home Southern drawl, is front and center in his ads, with a populist message of speaking out against "Big Oil" and free trade agreements.

"We've got the perfect candidate for the district. Whenever Democrats win a district this tough, it's usually when you get the right kind of guy," said Democratic consultant John Rowley, who has handled Childers' media. "He's the right guy at the right time."

Still, Childers, a self-described "pro-life, pro-gun Democrat," has to face the hurdles of being associated with a national party that is well out of step with the conservative culture of Mississippi. To wit: Childers stopped by a gun show and found himself peppered with questions about his views on gun control.

Childers stayed at the gun show for only about 15 minutes after receiving a less than enthusiastic reception from the dealers, who included Wicker's uncle and the DeSoto County Republican Party chairman, an enthusiastic backer of Davis.

"They think that just because you're a Democrat, you're anti-gun," he lamented to Melancon after the event.

The NRCC has spent more than $1.27 million in this district to raise exactly those kinds of questions, saturating the airwaves with ads. The committee has been aided by Freedom's Watch, the conservative advocacy group, which aired an ad accusing Childers of supporting higher taxes.

For its part, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent more than $1.82 million, and leading Blue Dog Democrats have been campaigning with Childers in the final week.

But the influx of advertising has hardly dented Childers' standing, according to polling from both parties, and the race remains neck-and-neck.

One potential reason for Childers' consistent standing: Despite the district's conservative nature, Democrats hold the vast majority of countywide elected positions in much of northeast Mississippi.

"He's an old-time Southern Democrat, ... an old-time Southern Democrat is a moderate Republican," said Hayden Ables, the former chancery clerk in Tishomingo County.

"People in the South have a tendency to vote the individual, not the party. That's the reason that a Democratic county will vote Republican on national issues, when it comes to Gov. Barbour, but also vote for Travis. Because it's the individual, not the party."
By Josh Kraushaar