PHILADELPHIA - Partisan doctors check the pulse of Mississippi politics every year at the Neshoba County Fair.

Sometimes you see the campaign health in the speeches: Gov. Haley Barbour critically diagnosed Obama Administration policies; Treasurer Tate Reeves called on Republicans to get a booster shot in conservative ideology; Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney gave birth to his re-election campaign.

But the life blood of the 2011 campaign season may not have been on stage, but in the crowd under the historic Founders Square Pavilion.

Delta attorney Bill Luckett, sat a few rows back from the front during Thursday's speeches.

Luckett's exploration of a Democratic run for governor in 2011 stumbled out of the starting gate when the Associated Press quoted him saying, "You can't have grown up in the Mississippi Delta with any kind of sensitivity or any kind of feelings and not come out of that aligned with the Democratic Party, unless you're just a racist or something."

Luckett blamed the reporter; the reporter stood by her quote noting she read it back to him to verify. Luckett also criticized Clarion Ledger Perspective Editor Sid Salter for a column he wrote about Luckett's position on tort reform.

Salter wrote Luckett "supports a substantial amount of so-called 'tort reform' legislation. That would seem to pit Luckett against the teachers unions and trial lawyers. Luckett said that is not the case and actually he thinks tort reform may have gone too far. Salter also stood by his reporting.

Luckett has launched Progress for Mississippi to be "a strong advocate for electing progressive Democratic statewide candidates in Mississippi in 2011."

Presumably, he would be at the top of that ticket. Progress for Mississippi, sporting an obvious revision of President Obama's campaign logo, lists technology and new jobs; education reform; alternative energy; cultural tourism; transportation infrastructure, telecommunications and public works; and healthcare as issues.

Luckett's previous foray into public policy, an initiative seeking to set Mississippi's cigarette tax at half the national average and to earmark the proceeds for Medicaid, did not make the list. He withdrew that initiative but filed a modified version of it in March.

Whether Luckett is serious about his cigarette tax policy initiative or whether it was for publicity remains to be seen, but he does appear for the moment to be serious about considering a run for governor.

Also in the audience Thursday was John Arthur Eaves, Jr., Democrat's 2007 gubernatorial nominee who lost against Gov. Haley Barbour 58 percent to 42 percent. Eaves, whose father twice ran for governor himself, has been rumored to be considering another run for the open seat in 2011. Eaves, a trial lawyer, spent $5.7 million in 2007 building name identification statewide.

Another prominent Democrat shaking hands and slapping backs was operative Burns Strider.

Strider's father Jesse "Big Daddy" Strider was - and his brother Alton Strider is - sheriff of Grenada County.

Strider, former chief of staff to Rep. Ronnie Shows, worked faith-based outreach for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign and served a similar capacity for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He now serves as the principle of the Eleison Group, a political consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia targeted toward helping clients, "understand America's rich and complex faith landscape and build relationships with people of faith from across the ideological spectrum on the local and national level."

I'm not suggesting Strider is running for office, but I expect he will be under contract for a Democrat who does.

On the Republican side, Dave Dennis and his wife Jane made the rounds at the Fair as well.

Dennis is strongly considering a run for governor as a Republican. He serves as President of the commercial and industrial subcontractor Specialty Contractors & Associates, Inc. of Gulfport.

Other Republicans looking at the chief executive role for the state come from experiences as elected officials.

Dennis comes from the business and community leadership mode like the Vicksburg contractor Kirk Fordice. His resume notes several leadership positions on statewide and coastal business associations, but one of his strongest assets (to which I'm sure he would agree) is his wife Jane who herself was named businesswoman of the year by the Mississippi Economic Council.

Judicial officials also visited around the Pavilion. When Chief Justice Bill Waller, Jr. spoke he recognized members of the Supreme Court present including Randy "Bubba" Pierce, George Carlson, Ann Lamar, and Jess Dickinson.

Dickinson defeated then incumbent Justice Chuck McRae and Chancery Judge Larry Buffington in 2002 with 52 percent of the vote. Dickinson has proven himself a reasonable and conservative voice on the Court in his opinions, teaches at the Mississippi College School of Law, and enjoys picking bluegrass on his off time.

Presumably he will stand for reelection in 2010 in the Southern District.

For some, politics, both on and off the stage, is the heartbeat of the Fair.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at