Four Senate candidates try to sway business leaders

By Jon Kalahar - email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - It's not every day that all four candidates for the two United States Senate races in Mississippi are in one place.

At the seventh annual Hob Nob Mississippi, put together by the Mississippi Economic Council, Roger Wicker, Ronnie Musgrove, Thad Cochran and Erik Fleming all spoke to an audience of close to 1,000 business leaders.

There's little doubt who the favorite is among business people. Thad Cochran, the senior senator from Mississippi, received the loudest ovation of the day. Cochran is expected to win big again come November 4. In fact, he's so confident he focused his comments on the future, rather than his opponent.

"We have come through difficult times before and I'm confident we'll come through this period of uncertainty and anxiety and financial dislocation," Cochran said.

Cochran's challenger, democrat Erik Fleming, told listeners the state needs to keep more of its college graduates in state and focus on incentives and tax breaks for small businesses. But he could not help but respond to a quote from the state republican party concerning his slim chances.

"Said something to the effect that the only people who can beat my opponent was Jesus Christ and Billy Graham. I don't know how to take that other than the fact that I'm working, trying hard, really, really hard to be the third person on that list," said Fleming.

Republican Roger Wicker was also greeted warmly. Wicker touted his conservative, Mississippi main street ideals, but also warned that a vote for his opponent would mean falling in line with the current liberal leadership running the Senate.

"This is about the United States of America. And make no mistake about it, let's not have to [think] about what a 60 vote filibuster proof majority in the United States Senate might mean to job creation," said Wicker.

Wicker's opponent, democrat former governor Ronnie Musgrove, said the current Washington politicians have failed Mississippians with the recent $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

"To me, what just happened is the American taxpayer got stuck with the bill. And it is time we make some different decisions and different directions and make sure our economy is brought back," Musgrove said.

Recent polling shows Wicker leading Musgrove by several points, but both campaigns believe it will be much closer on election night.