“In the coming days, our team will look into the irregularities to determine whether a challenge is warranted,” McDaniel, 41, said of the allegations. “After we’ve examined the data, we will make a decision about whether and how to proceed.”…

Steffey, a professor of election law at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, detailed the barriers McDaniel would have to go through in order to claim victory, noting he would have to identify a “systemic problem so pervasive as to have the entire election thrown out,” something he believes is without precedent…

There were poll observers on the ground, but Steffey has seen no reports of widespread challenges. He noted there is a law that no one can vote in a primary without the intent to support that candidate in the general election, but says it is “unenforceable.”…

“It seems like the early stages of grief, where denial and bargaining is still going on,” he said.

***

[McDaniel’s] self-absorbed speech – which equated the broader conservative cause’s success with an already-lost election – reflects a relatively new tendency in conservative politics. Until recently, the party’s moderates – Wayne Gilchrest, Joe Schwarz, Lisa Murkowski, Dick Lugar – had always been the ones more likely to embrace the sore loser’s mantle, even as they and their allies complained that conservatives were destroying GOP unity. But the Right keeps finding new ways to give up the high ground.

Conservatives once had the patience to lose, keep fighting, and win slowly. Through the tragedies of Barry Goldwater’s landslide loss, Richard Nixon’s presidency, Gerald Ford’s 1976 nomination, and betrayals big and small by more than one President Bush, conservatives quietly did the unglamorous work of electing and promoting their candidates, state by state, district by district. Over decades, they changed the national political conversation. And they moved the Republican Party – not just its fringes, but its center and its establishment as well – far to the right of where it had once been.

But for some conservatives, patience has lately given way to demands for instant gratification. Why accept defeat just because we got fewer votes? So what if we failed to elect enough conservatives to defund Obamacare – we want it, and we want it right now. Or we all quit!

***

“The establishment crossed the line last night,” Craig Shirley, a conservative political consultant and biographer of Ronald Reagan told Yahoo News in an interview Wednesday. “This is a win for the establishment, but it’s a win with an asterisk, because it’s so tainted that it might be one of those things where they’re going to be sorry they ever won the runoff in Mississippi.”…

Even though Cochran won, conservative activists say that the Mississippi race was a pivotal moment that will serve as the turning point for those who are increasingly fed up with the party.

“Last night in the long run may be the night that the GOP establishment died,” FreedomWorks Vice President Adam Brandon told Yahoo News. “The GOP can’t keep getting us to support their candidates when they’re literally using the other side to get their candidates across.”…

“This just threw gasoline onto the flames of the civil war,” said Richard Viguerie, a Republican activist and the chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. “What happened yesterday in Mississippi will resonate for years to come. It will become the battle cry, just like the Alamo. We will remember Mississippi.”

***

According to one person involved in the discussions among the leaders of these groups, the possibilities include trying to build support for a third-party run by Mr. McDaniel — a move that would almost certainly draw Republican votes away from Mr. Cochran and help his Democratic challenger, Travis Childers.

In addition, some Tea Party leaders were discussing throwing their weight behind Mr. Childers. Though he is a Democrat, some of his views — he is anti-abortion and opposes the Affordable Care Act — are attractive to conservatives. “The Tea Party is so burned they may do something radical,” a conservative leader involved in the planning said, asking not to be named in order to discuss internal deliberations.

Some Tea Party supporters were pushing for Mr. McDaniel to wage a write-in campaign in the general election…

But Austin Barbour, a campaign adviser to Mr. Cochran, said Mr. McDaniel had run out of options. Mr. Barbour said that a write-in campaign would be illegal under Mississippi law — the ballots would be thrown out — and that Mr. McDaniel had missed the deadline to get on the ballot as an independent.

***

In an interview with HuffPost Live, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said that Cochran could thank black voters by supporting efforts to re-establish protections in the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down last year.

“Our advocacy towards his office is to support amending the Voting Rights Act, free of any conditions such as voter ID,” Johnson said. “I think this is an opportunity for him to show some reciprocity for African-Americans providing a strong level of support for him.”

Johnson said that there are currently no Republicans who support re-establishing the formula eliminated by the Supreme Court last year, though Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and a handful of other Republicans have expressed support for restoring protections. Under the formula, states like Mississippi needed to receive federal clearance before making changes to the way that elections were held. Johnson added that other priorities for the Mississippi NAACP included getting more support for the state’s black colleges and universities as well as getting more federal allocations for communities represented by black elected officials.

***

In reaching out to black voters in recent days, Cochran touted his support for the farm bill, for federal education funding, for the food-stamp program. But the GOP establishment’s debt requires a grander statement of gratitude than that. There’s the John Conyers bill calling for a study of slavery reparations—what measure is more suitable than that to be linked to an election in the state that was the headquarters of King Cotton? But if that’s a bridge too far, here are two other possibilities. Mississippi has rejected the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, thus leaving uncovered 300,000 of its residents, most of them African-American—a classic example of the ways in which the state’s large racial minority has suffered at the hands of the state’s monolithically white and Republican power structure. Might Cochran and, more importantly, Haley Barbour call on their allies in Jackson to rethink that rejection of gobs of federal funds just waiting to be deployed in their impoverished state?

Or this: There is a movement afoot in Washington to pass new protections for the voting rights of minorities in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of key elements of the Voting Rights Act. Is there any more fitting way for Thad Cochran to express recognition of the role that African-American voters played in his survival—in the face of threats of voter intimidation from his Republican opponent—than to guarantee that black voters in Mississippi and elsewhere are unencumbered in their access to the polls? I don’t recall Cochran speaking up loudly in opposition when Mississippi passed a stringent voter ID law not long ago. Better late than never, Senator.

***

Look at it this way: Cochran will roll into the general election with the usual advantages of long-term incumbency, which are certainly nothing to sneeze at… but his Democrat opponent will take away every single argument he used to win his runoff. There’s no bid Thad Cochran can make to buy Mississippi votes with federal taxpayer money that a Democrat cannot cheerfully beat. At some point in that bidding war, the Republican base starts throwing up its hands in disgust and staying home, assuming Cochran hasn’t already fatally wounded himself in the general election by pushing McDaniel’s very sizable cadre of supporters away, by using tactics that smeared them as much as McDaniel. And even if Cochran wins this time, he’s 76 years old and will retire soon, leaving an open seat that his last-ditch campaign has made more Democrat-friendly. Republicans who run as slightly less spendthrift defenders of the Democrat-dominated spending machine are assisting a seismic shift of American political consciousness that will eventually make it impossible for them to win, or indistinguishable from Democrats when they do…

The important struggle today isn’t truly partisan. It’s not even entirely about conservatives vs. liberals any more. It’s about the System versus those who want to shut it down before it runs out of taxpayer fuel, chokes on the liberties it devours, and blows apart. Thad Cochran’s quest to hang on to his seat provides a classic example of the System protecting itself, with both Republican and Democrat forces lined up beneath its banner. With a 2 percent victory in hand, the System’s mouthpieces are now busy declaring that everything McDaniel and his supporters believe is “extreme,” “radical,” and toxic for anyone interested in winning an election.

***

As a local observer tells The Guardian, Cochran’s campaign was “sending mailers to people in black Jackson neighborhoods touting Cochran’s supposed support of public schools, HBCU [historically black colleges and universities] funding, and ‘blight protection for minority communities,’ even as people in richer, whiter neighborhoods were getting Cochran mailers featuring all white men and Cochran touting his pro-NRA, anti-abortion cred, and his ‘more than 100′ votes against Obamacare.”

Meanwhile, Cochran did not exactly have a history of appealing to black voters in the state, as you might expect from a politician of his generation in Mississippi. This report writes off Cochran as a product of the “Southern Strategy” who is accustomed to employing “coded, ‘wink-wink’ racism.” That’s the spin of a left-leaning observer, of course, but it is fair to assume that this view would have widespread currency among the black Democrats who turned out to vote for Cochran. So they “voted almost exclusively for the federal money Cochran brings home—not for the party that abandoned African-Americans back in the 1960s.”

Is this what racial politics all boils down to—that it’s not about who is racist or who isn’t, but merely about who can deliver the federal dollars? This is more evidence, in case it was needed, that racial politics in America is no longer actually about race or racism. It has been co-opted as a bludgeon for supporters of the welfare state.

***

This political near-death experience for Mr. Cochran should not obscure truths that Republican officeholders ignore at their peril. Members of Congress had better stay connected to the politics of their state or district if they hope to win re-election. That doesn’t mean incumbents need to be in lock-step with every group on every issue. It does mean holding town hall meetings, staying in touch with local political leaders, listening to their concerns, treating them with respect by telling them when and why one disagrees, and cultivating allies…

Tuesday’s outcomes suggest local tea party groups have more influence than the national groups purporting to speak for them. A network of Mississippi tea party groups made Mr. McDaniel competitive. In Oklahoma, national groups like Club for Growth, Senate Conservative Fund and FreedomWorks could spend and endorse all they wanted, yet local tea party support for Mr. Lankford blunted these inside-the-Beltway groups’ impact in the Sooner State…

Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill once famously said, “All politics is local.” That doesn’t mean politics is only local or that lawmakers should only reflect the views of some groups back home at every moment. But constituents do want to know they’re being heard rather than forgotten. Politicians who forget that ancient lesson pay a price sooner or later.

***

Via the Right Scoop.

***