Cochran/McDaniel race dredges up ghosts of the past

The Mississippi Senate GOP primary race unfolding now between Senator Thad Cochran and state senator Chris McDaniel has put me in mind of a conversation that I had with Ed Morrissey back in the days when he was still running Captain’s Quarters. I had asked him, only half in jest, whether he was considering a run for office himself. Ed indicated that it would probably be a bad idea, given the length of his “paper trail.” If you spend enough time either writing, talking on the radio or appearing on television, you’re bound to eventually toss out a couple of clunkers which could come back to haunt you in a heated political campaign.

It turns out that the Cochran – McDaniel race is cranking up the temperature, and opponents of the challenger have dug up clips from a conservative talk radio show called “The Right Side” – featuring McDaniel – which aired from 2004 until 2007. And some of the ones revealed so far seem to be… well, you can judge for yourselves.

Discussing whether to pay the descendants of slaves, Mr. McDaniel said, “If they pass reparations, and my taxes are going up, I ain’t paying taxes.”

On Mexico: “Why don’t we all immigrate south, let’s go to Mexico…You know, a dollar bill can buy a mansion in Mexico. And I think we all get together, go down there, build us a studio for like 26 pesos, uh and you know, put on a radio show right there in Mexico. Live the rest of our lives there.”

Asked by someone else in the studio, “Do we have to learn Spanish?” Mr. McDaniel replied, “Yes, regrettably…You’ll have to learn just enough to ask where the bathroom is. Baños. Baños. That’s what you say.”

Mr. McDaniel then asked someone to translate, “Do you have a sister?” “What about mamacita?” he offered. “Mamacita works….I’m an English-speaking Anglo. I have no idea what it means, actually, but I’ve said it a few times, just for, you know, fun. And I think it basically means, ‘Hey, hot mama.’ Or, you know, ‘You’re a fine looking young thing.'”

Buzzfeed dug up this one, regarding a female Libertarian candidate running for Governor.

“It’s so interesting to see this woman basically using her boobies to — I shouldn’t have said that — using her breasts to run for office. And if that is not the most typical libertarian platform, I have no idea what is. The only thing that could make the campaign more libertarian is a heroin needle in her arm.”

Have these types of revelations had any effect on the McDaniel campaign’s prospects? Depends who you ask. The latest polling available in the race holds both good news and bad news for the challenger. The good news is that he has narrowed the gap with Cochran. The bad news is that the gap is still pretty darned wide.

According to Harper polling, released Monday, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran continues to lead his Republican primary challenger Chris McDaniel. Cochran leads McDaniel 52-35 percent, a net +7 percent gain for McDaniel since mid-December when it was found Cochran leading 54-31 percent.

The thing to remember here is that – as any honest pollster will admit – polling a primary race is notoriously difficult. Turnout for a primary in a non-presidential race year tends to run dismally low, and the lower the turnout, the harder it is to predict the results. In that regard, McDaniel may see some light at the end of the tunnel, since the same poll shows him leading 53-35 among self-identified Tea Party voters and by a 45-44 margin among those describing themselves as “very conservative.” If the turnout is indeed extremely low, these are the folks who will be the most motivated to show up on primary day.

This radio show history is going to be a problem, though. Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) will be drooling over a chance to pour through the tapes and transcripts of the shows and shove whatever juicy quotes they can find in McDaniel’s face, along with asking every other Republican candidate in the country to comment on them. (Shades of Todd Akin, here. And I think Christine O’Donnell eventually came to regret all those shows she did with Bill Maher.) I assume that any competent political staff would have anticipated this and already has the tapes and transcripts ready so they could respond. If that’s the case – and this may sound crazy – maybe they should just yank off the bandage, release them all now, and put the issue behind them. Otherwise this is starting to look like too much of a goldmine for the Democrats, assuming that McDaniel somehow closes the margins and makes it to the general election.

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