Whatever happens with the primaries tonight, there's been a paradigm shift in Mississippi politics.
Three viable Coast candidates, and one from just a little further inland, in the running for the state's top two jobs, governor and lieutenant governor. That's a first in... well, ever.
There are many historic, and other, reasons that for much of the state's history, a South Mississippian need not apply. First, cotton was king and we don't grow it down here, so the wealth and power in Mississippi was concentrated elsewhere. Then, even after cotton declined, those areas with power managed to hang on to it at the Capitol. Then, of course, the Coast was pretty good at shooting its own foot. I could go on here, but if you've lived in Miss'ippi very long you know the story. If not, somebody will fill you in. There were a couple of anomalies -- longtime AG Mike Moore and U.S. Sen. Trent Lott. But governor, forget it.
Thing is, though, it appears to have changed. If the candidates from down here lose tonight, I don't believe it will be based on geographics.
I talked with at least a couple of the candidates about this earlier in the campaigns, and they said the same thing: Katrina appeared to end any geographic isolation the Coast suffered. It fostered a unifying spirit. Many people through their churches or other organizations, or on their own, came down and helped. They said they just didn't feel any of the old circumspection from inlanders.
And again, while they may not win, it won't be because of the sand in their shoes.