JACKSON - The Capitol Press Corps political prognosticators faced their pre-election predictions on Monday at a monthly luncheon sponsored by The John C. Stennis Institute of Government.

Clarion Ledger Perspective Editor Sid Salter, Northeast Daily Journal Capitol Correspondent Bobby Harrison and Marty Wiseman from the Stennis Institute were joined by Jackson State University political science professor Mary Coleman.

The day before the election, all the panelists correctly predicted Barack Obama would win the election for President nationwide, with Harrison coming the closest predicting Obama 53 percent to John McCain 47 percent (McCain got 46 percent).

They also all predicted Roger Wicker would defeat Ronnie Musgrove with Parker coming closest with his 53 percent to 47 percent prediction (the result was 55 percent to 45 percent).

All the panelists correctly predicted victory for Travis Childers, Bennie Thompson, Gregg Harper and Gene Taylor in their respective districts.

And all correctly picked Ann Lamar, David Chandler, Randy Pierce, and Jim Kitchens to win their Supreme Court races, except Salter and Wiseman, who thought incumbent Chief Justice Jim Smith would prevail against Kitchens.

"Its tough for a chief justice to run for re-election, ask Lenore Prather," Salter said referencing former Chief Justice Prather's loss to Chuck Easley in 2000.

Harrison argued Prather's loss was to lack of campaigning, that Easley surprised her. He said Kitchens' victory was a result of the very effective coordination by groups opposed to Smith.

Salter mentioned one advantage: "Bennie Thompson embraced Jim Kitchens on his sample ballot in print and broadcast." Wiseman noted that despite judicial elections being nonpartisan, people have learned to figure out which candidate is the "Democrat" and which one is the "Republican."

Unfortunately for Smith, it was a Democratic leaning district. John McCain and Roger Wicker both carried Mississippi by strong margins, but both trailed Barack Obama and Ronnie Musgrove in the counties of the central Supreme Court District.

In 2000, Smith lost Hinds County by about 6,000 votes, but netted 4,000 votes from Madison County and carried Rankin County by 17,000 votes to win the district by 11,000 votes.

This year he trailed Kitchens in Hinds County by 37,000 votes, lost Republican Madison County, and only outpaced his top rival in Rankin County by 2,701 votes.

Salter said Kitchens' television ads resonated with voters; they were an "island of civility" in an otherwise negative election year. The commercial featured Kitchens in his kitchen with his wife pleading to voters to get Kitchens out of her kitchen and into the Supreme Court. They were folksy and fun, much like Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's successful 2007 commercials.

The Kitchens name was also an asset in Rankin and Madison counties where John Kitchens served as a popular district attorney from 1992-2000 and then as a circuit court judge from 2000-2004. Many Rankin and Madison Republicans were puzzled on Nov. 5, when they realized they had voted for Jim Kitchens, not John Kitchens.

The panelists also agreed that Travis Childers faces competitive challenges again in 2010, and if he wins, he'll have to fight through 2012 as well before he can settle into a comfortable incumbency. "The Republicans on the eastern side [of the district] who held their noses and voted for a Democrat will come along with a different candidate. In 2010, [Childers] will have another major fight on his hands," predicted Wiseman. Harrison mentioned state senators Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo and Merle Flowers of Southaven as potential Republican challengers.

Salter described the "hard feelings" of Tupelo voters - who viewed themselves as the capital of the district - against the "scorched earth tactics" of Southaven Mayor Greg Davis.

He said this "struggle for the soul of the Republican Party" in northeast Mississippi continues, and DeSoto County folks tell him Davis may have ruined it for DeSoto GOPers, that a unifying candidate will have to come from the eastern part of the district. Salter noted Childers is smart enough to continue to encourage and capitalize on the rural/suburban split in the district.

In the Musgrove-Wicker race, Wiseman said one thing is clear: "If you want to get votes in the Delta, you have to go by Bennie Thompson's office." Salter agreed, "The impact that Bennie Thompson's lack of political support had on the race is undeniable." Salter thinks Musgrove's elected political future in Mississippi is likely over.

Harrison said Musgrove can't blame his loss on Thompson. "If he had been on Bennie Thompson's sample ballot, he still would have lost," Harrison said.

Harrison said Musgrove has the distinction of getting more votes than any other losing candidate in Mississippi history, but he agreed with Salter that Musgrove's political future is just that: history.

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.