05/14/2008 10:37 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Paintin' It Blue in Mississippi

Clinton, Miss. It's Over.

And the antecedent of it is not merely the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Two bigger "its" are also over: the general election and the era of Republican dominance.

While the numbers receiving the most media attention on Tuesday -- the results of the West Virginia Democratic primary -- were bad for Barack Obama, two other sets of numbers indicate that he and his party will win an overwhelming victory in November.

The first is the finding of a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that 82% of Americans believe that the nation is headed in the wrong direction, while only 16% think it is headed in the right direction. Although John McCain currently runs well ahead of his party, a victory by the party in power in the face of such numbers borders on the impossible.

But the Tuesday poll result that provides the clearest (and for Republicans most terrifying) writing on the wall came from here in Mississippi. The victory by Democrat Travis Childers over Republican Greg Davis in a special election for the House seat representing Mississippi's First District is sending shock waves throughout the Grand Old Party.

This is the third long-term Republican House seat won by a Democrat in recent weeks (the other two were in Illinois and Louisiana). The Republican party threw all its putative assets into the race, beginning with race itself.

GOP ads linked Childers with Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. One said that Childers took "Obama's endorsement over our values." Another declared, "Records prove Obama endorsed Childers!"

It didn't work. Neither did bringing in Dick Cheney on Monday -- a desperation move that may well have hurt the Republican candidate. While Davis was trying to link his opponent to Obama and Wright, he was linking himself with Cheney and President Bush, which is increasingly looking similar to tying yourself to an anchor when jumping into water.

John McCain will have that anchor hanging from his neck in November, as will Republican candidates around the country.

Three of the four Congressmen from Mississippi are now Democrats. What's more, there is a very real chance that, with Obama at the head of the ticket, a huge African-American vote in November will enable Democratic former Governor Ronnie Musgrove to defeat newly appointed Republican Senator Roger Wicker. Furthermore, as I argued nearly two years ago, there is a real possibility that Obama could carry Mississippi.

Republicans should be singing a new song about the home of the blues:

"Mississippi, Mississippi--if we can't make it there, we can't make it anywhere"

As they see the Mississippi result, Republicans must also be sadly singing,

Our guardian star lost all its glow

The day that I lost you

It has rarely been the case that as Mississippi goes, so goes the nation, but when this red state turns blue it's a sure indication that the GOP is the Gone Old Party.

And that's why Barack Obama is smiling even after Hillary Clinton's big victory in West Virginia. Because Bush and the Republicans painted the country a bright red to turn it upside down, Obama is able to sing,

I'm painting it too

But I'm painting it blue

(Robert S. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College. His latest book, Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America, has just been published by Crown.)