BAYHAM: What’s Really On The Ballot In Mississippi

Thad Cochran has represented the state of Mississippi in the US Senate since 1978, a time when Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Disco was still alive.

Thankfully neither made it past 1980.

Prior to going to the senate, Cochran was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1972 on the day Richard Nixon swept into a second term by the biggest landslide in American history.

During his 42 years on Capitol Hill, the 76-year old US Senator has delivered lots of federal projects for his state.

And if you don’t believe this Republican, just as the Mississippi Democratic activists who are trying to tip the scales for the senior citizen senior senator by participating in the Republican US Senate primary runoff, a consequence of living in a state without actual party registration.

Cochran, despite his lengthy congressional longevity, is hardly a household name outside Mississippi. Yet Cochran’s crusade for a seventh term has attracted curious national bipartisan support for a fairly conservative southern Republican.

Cochran’s campaign is the beneficiary of a Halloween Coalition of the state and national GOP establishment and the northeast liberal moneyed class (the invisible yet real Leftist 1%) aiming to defeat the TEA Party’s attempt to add to their small yet high profile and thankfully disruptive caucus in the US Senate.

But more on this later in the expected Cochran post-mortem, as TEA Party candidate/state senator Chris McDaniel is expected to prevail today.

McDaniel shocked the political establishment when he led the incumbent in the first round of the GOP primary but had just fallen short of winning a majority.

McDaniel’s first place finish invigorated grassroots conservatives yet it was the equivalent of an alarm bell in a firehouse for the Republican establishment. Virtually overnight, top Republican operatives and money flooded into Mississippi.

A McDaniel victory will mark the first shake up in the Magnolia State’s US Senate delegation since James Eastland defeated Wall Doxey in the 1942 Democratic primary, the last time a sitting Mississippi US Senator was defeated for re-election (in the single party era of Mississippi politics, winning the Democratic nomination was tantamount to winning the election).

Sudden retirement or death would allow the governor to make the appointment to fill the seat until the next election, though once anointed the temporary senator is highly likely to become the permanent senator.

It would be as if the 17th amendment had been repealed as the state government would be installing a US Senator who would occupy the seat for decades to come.

The last part is hardly an exaggeration. James Eastland, the man Cochran succeeded back in 1978, held the seat for 36 years. Eastland’s longtime colleague John C. Stennis was in the upper chamber for 42 years.

By comparison, Stennis’s successor Trent Lott was “barely there” serving a “paltry” 19 years. After resigning, Lott’s successor Roger Wicker was appointed by the governor, who has won two elections by big margins. Wicker will likely continue to serve in the US Senate either at his own pleasure or the Lord’s.

If Cochran is renominated (in a reverse of what it used to be in Mississippi, now winning the GOP nod for US Senate is tantamount to winning the seat), he will be in his early eighties when his seat is up for re-election in 2020.

You don’t need to consult an Irish betting house to figure there’s a good chance Cochran will not make it until the end of his term, which begs the question is he simply going for re-election to sit on the seat a little while longer while an heir apparent known only to him and the Mississippi governor is prepared to step up? Say a member of the Barbour family?

Such a possibility cannot be dismissed.

The decision to be made in the Republican US Senate primary runoff by Mississippi voters who did not cast ballots in the Democratic primary (as opposed to just saying Republican voters) is whether the people will choose their senator this year or defer the honor to a future governor who will almost certainly anoint the senator, which will be rubber stamped by the electorate.

Disco died in 1979. In 2014, the 17th Amendment might come back alive in Mississippi.

By comparison to 1970s music sensations, Cochran had a great run but it’s time for him to go.

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