"Several" Republican senators reportedly uneasy with GOP's tactics in Mississippi runoff

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s not the tactics themselves that bother them as much as the attention those tactics are receiving from conservative voters.

Says Red State’s Leon Wolf, “If any of these bastards want to avoid the fallout they should go on the record.”

According to these conversations [with two Republican Senate staffers], some $800,000 was raised for Cochran by his Senate colleagues after the McDaniel victory in the primary’s first round, largely under the rubric of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This wasn’t seen as a particularly controversial matter at the time; the NRSC is an organization by and for the Republican members of the Senate and Cochran had raised money for his colleagues in the past, so there would have been no reason to deny him help. “It’s just what you do,” said one of the staffers. “It’s generally accepted that we probably can’t win the Senate if we lose our own people, so when Cochran’s people ask for help raising money, the answer is yes.”

Though there were published reports to the effect—and Barbour was open about it—that Cochran’s runoff strategy was to “expand the electorate” by seeking Democratic votes in a Republican primary, there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to where the funds being raised would go. And moreover, when Cochran lost a close race to McDaniel in the first round, there was a general assumption that his goose was cooked. “Nobody thought he’d win regardless of what he did,” said the staffer. “If you’re an incumbent and you’re behind a challenger that close to avoiding a runoff, you’re usually behind the eight-ball.”

As such, the staffers say, it wasn’t until Wednesday, when the fallout began to descend, that Cochran’s tactics became an issue. And now, several senators are more than a little uneasy with those tactics, which they feel responsible for since they raised money for Cochran.

AmSpec offers no names but says there’s “soul-searching” going on among “the Senate’s more outspoken conservatives” for not doing more to help McDaniel when they had the chance. *cough* (Rand Paul, of course, seems to think it was just awesome that Cochran won his party’s nomination with votes from the other party.) Was this, though, as Mollie Hemingway thinks, ultimately a pyrrhic victory for the GOP establishment? Before you say yes, tell me what you’re willing to do to punish the party for kitchen-sinking a guy who not only received the most votes in the first round of the primary but who, by wide consensus, won more Republican votes in the runoff too? Withholding donations is fine, but don’t kid yourselves: Money’s the one thing that GOP incumbents and the NRSC don’t want for. If they lose $10 million from the base in boycotted contributions, Sheldon Adelson can make it up for them in one check to the right Super PAC.

Are you willing to go this far?

Should the Republican establishment in Washington get away with tarring its own voters as racists? Should the Republican establishment in Washington get away with comparing its own base to Klansmen?

If there is no penalty for doing so, they will keep doing it. If there is no consequence, they will attack their own base to preserve their power. They will learn no lesson. In fact, some of you may want to donate to Travis Childers, Thad Cochran’s Democrat opponent. I cannot say that I blame you.

Cochran will now put the highest bidders first. The GOP will carry out this tactic of calling you racist klansmen Nazis everywhere it works. I would like to see the GOP get the majority and oust Harry Reid as leader. But I understand if you think Mississippi can still be sacrificed.

All true. If Cochran trounces Childers in the general election, the lesson learned by Republican incumbents will be that there’s no cost to beating conservative challengers by any means necessary. You guys will always turn out for them in November on the theory that the Democrat is worse, no matter how nasty to you they are in the primary, so they might as well be as nasty as they like. The question is, is the Democrat worse this time? He may be worse than Cochran on policy, but is he worse than the filthy patronage system that supports Cochran and which he supports in turn? That’s what you’re voting for, whether you like it or not, if you vote for Thad.

There are risks here. Electing Childers could give the Democrats the 50th Senate seat they need in the fall to preserve their majority. (Biden would cast the deciding vote in case of 50/50 ties, of course.) That’s not a big risk on legislation given that Republicans will control the House but it’s a huge risk on Supreme Court nominations, if/when Harry Reid ends up nuking the filibuster and allowing confirmation by simple majority vote. If O knows he can get a nominee through with just 51 votes, he’ll feel safer nominating someone who’s further left. Also, the more seats you hand to Democrats now, the better position they’ll be in come 2016, when they’re expected to clean up in battleground states. Sean Trende thinks there’s even a (small) chance that Democrats will win a filibuster-proof majority. If you sacrifice Mississippi now, you’re making that marginally more likely.

The counterargument is simple, though: If not now, when? The GOP might do well enough in the fall to retake the Senate even if they lose Mississippi. If they don’t retake it, that’s not a disaster — this is, by Nate Silver’s estimate, the “least important election in years” because control of the upper chamber matters so little. The GOP will have more leverage over Court confirmations if they have a majority, but who knows if there’ll even be a vacancy on the Court? And gridlock on legislation is a fait accompli given Obama’s standoff with the Republican House regardless of what the Senate does. If you’re unwilling to risk a protest vote for a Democrat after the grotesque spectacle of a group of GOP cronies using liberal votes to prop up an elderly man whose heart isn’t in it anymore, you’ll never be willing. And if you’re unwilling, maybe it’s time to stop complaining about Cochran and cronyism and the rest of it and accept that this is who we are and who we’re going to be.