The Republican Senate candidates Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel on Monday continued to make their case to Mississippi voters as part of their closing arguments before Tuesday’s runoff election.
About 100 supporters here waved American flags as Senator John McCain of Arizona jumped on the campaign trail with Mr. Cochran to address veterans’ issues. He spoke at the Mississippi War Memorial Building, which had the inscription, “Remember the dead too have voices.” Mr. Cochran’s surrogates pitched the incumbent senator’s record to fellow former service members…
“Not only the eyes of the nation, the eyes of the world will be on this election tomorrow,” Mr. McCain said.
Cochran stands on the pickup bed while his friends in Mississippi’s high places — Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith and Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall — brag about how much money he has brought to the state.
“Welcome to the real Mississippi campaign,” Cochran spokesman Jordan Russell says (he was the guy who ran into his football coach). Cochran nods slowly while his friends speak, takes the microphone when it is handed to him and says in a quiet, contented voice: “Thank you for your generous — if not exaggerated to some extent — comments. I liked it.”
It all felt so comfortable, so familiar. And maybe that’s the problem.
And this is what Martin and other tea partiers are banking on. Mississippi has perennially ranked last in categories including median family income and various health and education metrics, while also topping Gallup’s list of most conservative states. That’s a tough place for a moderate senator who hasn’t seen the state climbing the ranks.
A staffer for Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) re-election campaign was fired after he was arrested and accused by police of stealing campaign signs for Cochran’s primary opponent, state senator Chris McDaniel.
Lee Ellis Blair, a member of the DeSoto County GOP executive committee and Cochran campaign staffer, was arrested late Sunday and charged with “malicious mischief,” according to a partially redacted copy of the police report provided to Breitbart News.
“He’s fired. Unlike Chris McDaniel, we don’t tolerate that type of behavior,” said Cochran’s spokesman, Jordan Russell, in an email.
I think that Mississippians are being snookered by neocon zealots on talk radio, Fox News, and elsewhere. The New Right values extremism, obstructionism, partisanship, and–frankly–ignorance. I am disappointed to realize that the New Right seems to want to walk hand-in-hand with the horrible strain of anti-intellectualism that sees universities as vocational schools and vilifies anyone expert in a field as somehow not living in the “real world” or representative of “real people.” But because no one can be an expert, everyone is, which is where the New Right finds its loudest voices: those with no training, education, or experience shouting down those who bring expertise to the table. I think this is the reason that so many seem swayed by my father’s opponent: he is valued for his lack. Lack of experience (he is not a “career politician.”) Lack of wisdom (he relies solely on Jesus, the Constitution, and common sense*–combined in the veneer of “goodness”). Lack of judgment (he vows to refuse federal monies and to try to impede legislation). Lack of specificity (what are “Mississippi values”?). Lack of perspective (how does he believe for one moment that a junior Senator from the poorest state will have any influence in Washington? How can he believe that he will not want his family to live with him in the D.C. area?). I see these “qualities” as a disingenuous pose, engineered to appeal to the very worst in our electorate. Hence, the illegal and immoral actions of his followers make sense–both in my mother’s nursing home and at the Hinds County Courthouse–because he trades in mindless fanaticism. I find his campaign appalling on intellectual, moral, and idealist levels. The fact that Mississippi voters are even considering his candidacy saddens me more than I can say. Mississippi used to be recognized as the most backward, prejudiced, ignorant holdback in our nation, hands down. This sea change makes me very afraid that we might deserve that mantle.
Late Sunday, the McDaniel campaign posted a response on its Facebook page that includes a black and white picture of Kate Cochran against a black backdrop. “Thad Cochran’s daughter has ‘damaging’ words to describe CHRIS MCDANIEL…” the post reads. It includes the quote from Cochran’s posting about McDaniel, that “he relies solely on Jesus, the Constitution, and common sense.”
The image includes two hashtags: #ThankYouKate and #Who’sYaDaddy?
In the days before Tuesday’s runoff election to decide Mississippi’s Republican Senate primary, Cochran, lagging behind his tea party challenger, has sharply focused his message on armed-services issues, hoping his years of appropriating millions for the state’s bases and his traditional GOP worldview will give him an eleventh-hour boost…
Cochran, 76, in an interview, described his outlook as that of a “patriotic American,” and he said that he will tout it as he tries to connect with the frustrated conservatives who look unfavorably on his votes to increase federal spending but still support a robust national defense…
“McDaniel is saddling up with Ron Paul and peaceniks,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican consultant who directs a pro-Cochran political action committee. “Senator Cochran is the only veteran in this race, the only one who deeply understands veterans, our state’s facilities and the importance of promoting freedom.”
It’s not clear which candidate would benefit from higher or lower turnout. Last time, the conventional wisdom held that Mr. Cochran needed a high turnout to prevail, but there was ultimately a case that Mr. McDaniel, who is backed by the Tea Party, benefited more from irregular voters than Mr. Cochran did.
Polls showed that Mr. Cochran held an edge among older voters, who tend to turn out more reliably in low-turnout elections. Regional variations in turnout tended to work slightly to Mr. McDaniel’s advantage: Mr. Cochran would have led by about two-tenths of a percentage point if turnout had held at 2012 levels in the counties where turnout increased. That’s because turnout surged in Mr. McDaniel’s home base, the so-called Piney Woods or Pine Belt region of the southeastern part of the state, where Mr. McDaniel won by about two to one. Mr. McDaniel avoided defeat by the margin of his home county, Jones County, where Mr. McDaniel won more than 80 percent of the vote and turnout surged by 50 percent over 2012…
Mr. Cochran, on the other hand, is targeting the state’s Democratic — which is to say black — voters, who traditionally make up only the tiniest fraction of the state’s overwhelmingly white Republican primary electorate. Just 2 percent of voters in the 2012 Republican presidential primary were black. If Mr. Cochran succeeds in attracting crossover voters, it will further his edge in the Delta, in the heavily black counties along the east bank of the Mississippi River, and in Jackson’s Hinds County.
Scott Simmons, an anchor for WAPT in Jackson, Miss., tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that, when he asked Cochran why he’s courting Democrats to vote for him, Cochran said: “I used to be a Democrat.”
Simmons also paraphrased Cochran as suggesting, “Why not?” when asked why Democrats should vote for him.
Cochran has been a Republican since at least 1968, when he led Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign efforts in Mississippi—though he did grow up as a Democrat. Born in 1937, Cochran didn’t leave the Democratic Party for the GOP until the mid-to-late 1960s.
“We’ve got efforts reaching out to black voters in Mississippi who want to vote for Thad because they like what Thad is for,” said Austin Barbour, a Cochran campaign adviser. “Thad Cochran is someone who, even with his conservative message, represents all of Mississippi. He’s not some hostile screamer.”
Mr. Cochran had been a friend to Mississippi’s blacks during his six terms, Mr. Crudup said, and deserved African-American support in this difficult race. But the more powerful reason for blacks to turn out for Mr. Cochran may be his opponent, Mr. McDaniel. As a talk-show host, he has made racially tinged comments, suggesting he would not pay taxes if it meant supporting reparations for slavery, and using speech that some believe harks back to an earlier segregationist era.
Mr. McDaniel and his supporters portray Mr. Cochran’s effort as an act of desperation, but they are careful to criticize the senator for reaching out to Democrats rather than blacks. “The idea that he would have to reach out to liberal Democrats in an effort to save his candidacy just shows how far to the left he’s gone over the past 42 years,” said Mr. McDaniel, who has run an anti-Washington campaign fueled by Tea Party support.
The GOP Senate primary in Mississippi continues to intensify with the surfacing of a robocall aimed at potential voters that strongly criticizes the tea party and urges the listeners to vote against state Sen. Chris McDaniel in Tuesday’s runoff vote.
In the automated message appearing to target black Democrat voters in Mississippi, the female voice on the line claims that tea party challenger Chris McDaniel would lead to more obstruction in Washington and create more “disrespectful treatment” to the nation’s first African-American president.
“The time has come to take a stand and say NO to the tea party,” the message says. “NO to their obstruction. NO to their disrespectful treatment of the first African-American president.”
Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Mr. Cochran’s Tea Party opponent, State Senator Chris McDaniel, said in an interview on Sunday that his group was joining with Freedom Works and the Tea Party Patriots in a “voter integrity project” in Mississippi.
The groups will deploy observers in areas where Mr. Cochran is recruiting Democrats, Mr. Cuccinelli said. J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official and conservative commentator who said he was advising the effort, described the watchers as “election observers,” mostly Mississippi residents, who will be trained to “observe whether the law is being followed.”…
Elections experts say that under Mississippi law, outside election observers deployed by political action committees would need authorization from the candidate to challenge any votes. But they are allowed to monitor the election — an effort that Matthew Steffey, an election law expert at the Mississippi College School of Law, said evokes memories of the civil rights struggles of the state’s past.
“Some folks think this is not really about legal challenges to individual ballots, but about dissuading or in some cases intimidating voters from coming to the polls to begin with,” he said.
One of the groups funneling money into the race? Cochran’s fellow officemates, who gave just more than $100,000 to his campaign through their leadership committees between June 3 and 13, according to the Cochran campaign’s 48-hour reports from that time period.
In the campaign’s final moments, they have stepped in to save one of their own. Part of it is that he’s their colleague, and that’s just what you do. Another part is that they are allowed to give a maximum donation to Cochran again in the runoff.
But the other part is that the last thing incumbents in Congress want is for potential tea party challengers to be emboldened by McDaniel’s success. And thus a fountain of funds rushes from leadership PACs everywhere to Cochran’s bank account…
These small donations might not make or break Cochran’s chances at the polls, but they matter a whole lot symbolically. Note to future tea-party challengers: your opponent’s friends in Congress likely want to end you as much as your opponent does. A wave of tea-party victories is not good for their office feng shui.