Back in March the headlines were packed with “The Tea Party is Dead!” ledes. The major media were running themselves ragged proclaiming that Tea Party backed candidates were outliers and were going to be crushed by The Republican Establishment. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner were openly declaring war on the Tea Party and the conservative wing of the Republican Party in the House and Senate. Boehner and McConnell both won in a walk and Lindsay Graham didn’t have a credible challenger. The Chamber of Commerce pledged $50 million to defeat conservatives in the primary and the Main St. Republicans pledged millions as well.
Let’s be clear at the start, it’s a real uphill run to try to defeat an incumbent, especially in a primary. Challengers are typically facing a huge name recognition gap and an even bigger money gap, and as for organization, well that typically doesn’t exist. Most challengers are going to get beaten, and most of those elections will be very lopsided.
And then came the primaries. First out of the gate, in May, Boehner and McConnell won big victories and Thom Tillis won the GOP Senate primary in North Carolina. Tillis is a very well known name in SC and a generally moderate guy by conservative standards, but in order to avoid a runoff, he had to tack much further to the right than we’re sure he would have liked. Those wins gave us more dead Tea Party controversy whipped up by the Republican leadership and their primary friends in the media. The Establishment was on a roll.
The Establishment roll ran into a wall in Nebraska. Conservative Ben Sasse beat the well funded Establishment candidate handily and will be the next Republican Senator from Nebraska.
Then came Virginia. Eric Cantor was supposed to roll over his unknown, flat broke, “far right” primary challenger who’d never run for political office. Cantor had all of the endorsements that count locked up and was ahead in the money race $5 million to less than $100,000, and had the organization battle locked up. His opponent, Dave Brat, an economics professor at a local university, had conservative values, was outspoken against amnesty and Cantor’s cronyism, and caught the eye of Laura Ingraham who made him a cause. Brat won by 12 points. That win was the earthquake that shook Washington.
Round two looks like it’s coming up in Mississippi next Tuesday. Thad Cochran is the sitting Senator in Mississippi, and he’s been there since before the Civil War. He was going to step down this year so he could spend the last years of his life basking in his glory as a “former Senator” but he got talked into running one more time for the Establishment. Cochran is a reliable squish.
His challenger, state Senator Chris McDaniel is one of those dangerous, far-right extremists and Cochran hasn’t been shy about making that very point.
At a Tuesday campaign stop at the University of Southern Mississippi nursing school, Cochran called Tea Party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel an “extremist” who would be “dangerous” if elected.
“He’s an extremist,” Cochran said of McDaniel, according to local television station WDAM.
“It’d be dangerous to have somebody like him elected,” Cochran added.
McDaniel got more votes than Cochran in the primary but didn’t break the magic 50% barrier to avoid a runoff which is happening next Tuesday. The margin was only 1,300 votes in McDaniel’s favor, so it looked to be a real challenge to overcome Cochran’s incumbency.
The initial polls came out and surprisingly McDaniel was up four. That set Cochran and his Establishment supporters into high gear. McDaniel is running on amnesty, on Cochran cronyism, and an out of control Federal Government, and he’s backed by Sarah Palin and the local Tea Party racists. Cochran is running on all the money he’s brought home to Mississippi and how McDaniel won’t do that.
Cochran said McDaniel’s positions on cutting spending would hurt Mississippi. “We have a lot of federal initiatives, and if he’s going to cut the budgets, we’re going to be the state that suffers the most,” Cochran said. “To me, that’s unthinkable.”
In addition to calling his fellow Republican a dangerous extremist, and promising to spend more of his great, great grand children’s money, Cochran is looking for new voters.
…the new rhetoric is a significant escalation in tone and comes just as his campaign is openly asking Democrats to cross party lines to vote in the runoff.
Mississippi has an open primary, meaning voters can pick the party they want to vote for at the ballot box. With Republicans rejecting him, Cochran and his Establishment allies (see Mitch McConnell, etal) are working to get Democrats to turn out next Tuesday and reject the Tea Party extremist.
We’re not shocked. We’re not even a teensy bit surprised.
It’s looking more like Cochran will be denied the opportunity to retire as a “grand old man” because the latest polling numbers have McDaniel pulling away.
The Citizens United Political Victory Fund poll, conducted by Kellyanne Conway of The Polling Company, Inc., shows McDaniel has a 52 percent to 40 percent lead over Cochran. In a memo, pollster Conway noted too that McDaniel has an “intensity advantage” as 47 percent of his supporters say they are “definite” supporters whereas only 37 percent of Cochran’s say as much.
As we said at the beginning, conservative candidates won’t win every primary, but we can win an increasing number of them, and you can be sure that conservatives like Ben Sasse, Dave Brat, and Chris McDaniel will make life very difficult for McConnell and Boehner in their efforts to “work with the President.”
Pass the popcorn.