Blue Dog Democrat’s biggest liability is his party affiliation

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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He voted for John McCain in 2008 and spoke out against President Obama’s health care bill. Just last week, the coastal Mississippi congressman was endorsed by a Tea Party-backed Republican who placed second in this summer’s GOP primary.

Although he may sound like it, Rep. Gene Taylor is no Republican. And that’s what could end his congressional career on Tuesday.

The southern Democrat representing the most Republican district in the nation still held by a Democrat is facing his toughest re-election race since coming to Congress in 1989. He’s fending off a challenge from Republican Stephen Palazzo. Polls show the race is a tossup, yet Palazzo supporters are confident that Taylor’s party affiliation — and his two votes for Nancy Pelosi as speaker — could finally sink him.

“Nobody’s every mounted a campaign like this against Gene,” said one well-known Mississippi GOP operative of Palazzo.

That operative added: “He’s everything that Gene Taylor is and more. But he’s a Republican. And he’ll vote Republican [for Speaker of the House.]”

Taylor this year announced that he won’t be voting for Pelosi as Speaker of the House again.

So if Taylor’s biggest liability is not his views — which largely reflect his conservative district — but his party affiliation, why isn’t he a Republican?

Taylor’s campaign denied The Daily Caller’s interview request with the candidate. But his campaign forwarded a video of a recent local television interview where the congressman said that “being Democrat gives me the independence to vote the way that I want.”

“I’m a creature of habit,” Taylor explained in the interview. “I live on the same piece of property in Bay St. Louis that I’ve lived on for 30 something years. I’ve been married to the same woman for 30 something years. I belong to the same church that I was born and baptized in. You know, a lot of people, they gotta change their course every time the wind shifts. I don’t. As a sailor, I know you can adjust your sails and continue on that course.”

Brad White, the chairman of the Mississippi GOP, denied that the state party has approached Taylor about switching parties, at least during his tenure. He also denied any knowledge of rumors that Taylor, if he wins re-election, could be open to switching to the GOP after the election. “Nobody has relayed that message me,” he said.

If Taylor wins, could he could successfully defect to the GOP?

Dr. Merle Black, an expert on southern politics at Emory University, told TheDC recently that he’s not sure Republicans would welcome former Democrats into their tent with open arms — especially if the GOP is sitting on a comfortable majority in the House.

“I don’t know how serious that would be or how warmly they’d be received by the Republicans in the immediate aftermath of a campaign where they [were] trying to win as Democrats or at least nominal Democrats,” he said.

A reminder of how Taylor is not your typical Democrat, last week Joe Tegerdine, a Tea Party-backed Republican who lost to Palazzo in the primary, endorsed him.

Reached by phone Friday, Tegerdine acknowledged that the idea of Taylor switching parties “makes sense with his voting record.” But Tegredine, no fan of the establishment GOP, pointed to his own negative experiences battling the Mississippi Republican Party to say that he “could see why [Taylor] wouldn’t want to join the GOP.”

“This is completely conjectured, because I don’t have personal knowledge of it. But I have talked to people before who said [Taylor] has been approached to switch parties and… you know, they’ve been a jerk to him and lied about him for so long that he just has no interest,” Tegredine said.