The margin is 46-34, which is a healthy 14 point lead, but an incumbent at 46 with what could potentially be an active agent of destruction within his own party is nowhere near as secure as the conventional wisdom makes him out to be.
Incumbent Thad Cochran, coming off his narrow win in Tuesday’s testy Republican primary runoff, still holds a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Travis Childers in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race.
The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Mississippi Voters finds Cochran with 46% support to Childers’ 34%. Ten percent (10%) prefer some other candidate, while nearly as many (9%) are undecided.
The survey was taken Tuesday and Wednesday, and the sample was 750 likely voters.
It’s reasonable to assume the vast majority of the “some other candidate” vote is people who would vote for Chris McDaniel as a write-in. And then you have another nine percent who may or may not be McDaniel people who are upset about Cochran’s using Democrat votes to win a GOP primary earlier this week but don’t know what they want to do about it.
What this means is if Chris McDaniel wants to, he could throw this election to Childers.
And the Childers camp has to know that. His avenue to victory goes through getting Chris McDaniel’s support.
Cochran – and Haley Barbour, who pulls his strings – should be congratulated for the sheer ruthlessness of their tactics in Tuesday’s primary; namely, buying the votes of Democrats who will never vote for him in the general election. And the Cochran camp ought to be congratulated for their ruthlessness in trying to stop McDaniel’s camp from viewing ballot boxes to see if Cochran won the election with “illegal” votes – namely, Democrats who had voted in the June 3 Democrat primary, and then “crossed over” to vote for Cochran.
It’s unlikely McDaniel would find enough of those illegal votes to change the outcome of the race, but the fact that election officials in three Mississippi counties have barred McDaniel’s observers from viewing ballot rolls does appear suspicious.
When Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant certifies the election on Monday, which is what we understand he will do regardless of what comes out of McDaniel’s efforts to scrutinize the rolls for illegal votes, we’ll see exactly how ruthless McDaniel can be.
Will he be the “good soldier” he’s expected to be after what he and many of his supporters believe was a stolen election, and back McDaniel? What promises and considerations can he extract from Cochran and the Mississippi machine?
Or will McDaniel treat with Childers? He might have the whip hand in those negotiations.
Childers isn’t your typical Democrat. In his last year in Congress, before he was swept out of office in the Tea Party wave of 2010, he actually had a better FreedomWorks score than Cochran did. Childers has a pro-gun and pro-life record, and he also voted against Obamacare. There are bad votes on his record, for certain, but he’s a classic “blue dog” Democrat.
Could McDaniel offer to throw his support behind Childers, on condition that he switch to the GOP after the election? That would be a rather Machiavellian move, but there would be consideration behind it.
Not only could McDaniel offer to bring some 12-15 percent of the vote immediately, per the Rasmussen poll, he might well be able to bring FreedomWorks, Citizens United and the Senate Conservatives Fund to the table and supply Childers with financial resources he doesn’t have now and likely won’t have without McDaniels’ support. The Democrats aren’t going to bring their union money into that race to support a candidate getting beat by 14 points in a state as conservative as Mississippi. It might well be enough to take Cochran out.
And should Childers switch after winning, he would have the job security he never had as a Democrat congressman. He lasted all of two years before Mississippi’s deep-red voters blew him away in 2010. Now we see that Republican incumbents don’t lose elections in Mississippi. Food for thought, no?
If McDaniel got Childers elected and then brought him over to the GOP, that would open up a new faction in Mississippi GOP politics, one which could well challenge the Barbour machine. It would also signify McDaniel as a shrewd, ruthless operator every bit the equal of the Barbours. Of course, it would also mean he’s become what he hates. But that’s politics.
Meanwhile, I have a piece up at the American Spectator on the reaction to this mess back in Washington among some of the more conservative members of the GOP caucus in the Senate. They’re very uncomfortable with what Cochran did…
As such, the staffers say, it wasn’t until Wednesday, when the fallout began to descend, that Cochran’s tactics became an issue. And now, several senators are more than a little uneasy with those tactics, which they feel responsible for since they raised money for Cochran.
There is now special consideration being given to the NRSC’s practice of engaging in incumbent protection and favoritism. Said one staffer:
The Cochran thing is bad enough, but it’s not even the worst example. Look at Ben Sasse in Nebraska. He was one of three candidates who would have been fine in that race, all would win the general election and all would have been better votes than the senator they’d replace. There was no reason to back anybody in the primary there, and the NRSC did. And their guy didn’t even win; Sasse crushed him. Now the NRSC has to mend fences with a Republican nominee, and it’s completely unnecessary.
It’s possible, though there will be a fight about it, that a move will be made to pull the NRSC back from engaging in primaries unless the state party in question makes an endorsement.
But most of all, there is a lot of soul-searching going on—particularly on the part of a number of the Senate’s more outspoken conservatives, who might have gone into Mississippi to help McDaniel but for their having made a pledge not to campaign against incumbents. “That pledge would have to presuppose that Cochran wouldn’t run a Democratic campaign in a Republican primary, right?” said one of the staffers.