We haven’t talked much about the GOP primary next door in Mississippi, but in this week’s American Spectator column I made the argument for the Tea Party insurgent, Chris McDaniel, over the incumbent Thad Cochran.
I know little about McDaniel. He looks (1) like a guy who would make a pretty doctrinaire conservative senator, and (2) like a guy who might not quite be ready for prime time. The national reporting on the race focuses rather heavily on the fact that McDaniel had some supporters who went off the reservation and sneaked into a nursing home in Madison, just north of Jackson, to shoot video of Cochran’s wife Rose – an Alzheimer’s patient who suffers from severe dementia and has been in the home for the last 13 years.
That McDaniel has supporters who would think it would help his cause to post that video on the internet doesn’t mean he’s behind it – it’s hard to imagine somebody who got himself elected to the state senate and is apparently a fairly decent state senator would be so politically stupid as to sanction a move like this. But it also doesn’t indicate he’s got a particularly well-disciplined and professional organization. And if you expect to take down an incumbent senator, a well-disciplined and professional campaign organization is probably what you need.
All of which may be true, but McDaniel is still an improvement over Cochran. From the piece…
Ultimately, the value proposition Cochran offers to Mississippi Republican voters is pork and more pork. He won’t be a reliable conservative vote, his conduct will make them queasy, and he likely won’t even finish his current term. But in the meantime, he can shower the state with new courthouses, free swag for farmers, contracts for ships, and other goodies.
The reason Rose Cochran’s plight would be of interest to McDaniel’s overzealous and boorish fans is that Cochran lives with his executive assistant, who travels with him on congressional junkets at taxpayer expense and appears with him at posh social events. She also hosts fundraisers in the $1.7 million DC mansion at which she claims her boss as a tenant – a couple of which have been for Charlie Rangel and Sheila Jackson Lee.
The implication, and perhaps the explicit plan those overzealous boors were working on, was to make a public show of how Thad Cochran was gallivanting with an employee who looks an awful lot like a mistress, while his poor, demented wife suffers alone and abandoned in a nursing home.
The Cochran camp has gone out of their way to slam McDaniel for what his supporters did, but in doing so they only raised the profile of the story. That was a dumb mistake, because as the piece shows it only points out how distant from Mississippi Cochran is with his high-profile DC lifestyle. And while Cochran is running on his ability to bring pork home, that’s an appeal which is losing its luster all over a country terrified of $17 trillion in federal debt.
The race looks like it can go either way.