Former Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, an outspoken supporter of embattled Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) who faces state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a statewide runoff election Tuesday for the GOP Senate nomination, did his ally few favors in an interview on MSNBC.
NBC reporter Peter Alexander began by quoting a story in the New York Times which reported that Cochran was courting African-American voters in his quest to retain his seat in the Senate. When asked to respond to this report, McDaniel attacked his primary opponent for attempting to retain his seat by seeking the support of Democrats.
“I’m not concerned about them being African-American, I’m concerned about them being liberal,” McDaniel said of the voters the Cochran camp was targeting. “If Senator Cochran is going to court Democrats to save his seat, it is a clear indication that he has abandoned conservatives in the state of Mississippi.”
“Is McDaniel walking a fine line here?” Alexander asked Cochran.
“Not walking it very well,” Barbour said.
He went on to note that Cochran is defending Mississippi’s federal education funding against attacks by McDaniel. Barbour said that Mississippi’s voters might be incensed by McDaniel’s opposition to the federal Department of Education.
“Our state gets over a billion and a half dollars in federal funding for education, and Chris McDaniel says it’s unconstitutional?” Barbour remarked. “Some of those people are African-American. Some of them are Democrats. But tens of thousands of people concerned about Mississippi schools are independents and Republicans.”
This is not especially adept surrogate work by Barbour. Not only does he attack through implication McDaniel’s approach to racial politics, a maneuver which will only engender sympathy for him from the core Republican electorate, but he attacks the tea party candidate for being against ineffective federal spending.
Coming from a former head of the Republican Governor’s Association, no matter how beloved Barbour is in Mississippi, this statement comes across as the ultimate misreading of the GOP primary electorate by an establishment figure.