That’s the big item of discussion this morning after Thad Cochran squeaked out a dubious victory in the Mississippi GOP senate primary last night.
Cochran’s strategy to “expand the electorate” by buying votes from black Democrats worked for him – sort of. It worked in the sense that Cochran got 35,000 crossover votes in a race he won by 6,400. Another way to say that is Chris McDaniel won a relatively clear majority of Republican votes in a Republican primary election and yet lost the race.
McDaniel’s camp feels the election was stolen. In this, they are wholly justified. And now McDaniel is being advised to run as a write-in candidate by people like Judson Phillips, the president of the Tea Party Nation.
The fact is, groups like Phillips’ are beginning to constitute an Establishment which has some of the same infirmities and flaws as the K Street-GOP Establishment. The Tea Party Elite is just as DC-focused and petty at times as the party’s old guard, and there is no particular reason to believe it would be any less corrupt than the party establishment is; it just doesn’t have access to the levers of power that the official Republican Party does.
And so those of us who call ourselves conservatives would like to play free agent between the two, picking and choosing the good from each when we can find it, and hoping – praying – that somehow the split might be rectified and the party unified behind the goal of defeating the neo-communist Left which is destroying the country.
Defeating the neo-communist Left is the single, overarching goal of everybody on both the Republican and conservative side of the intra-party divide. But there are ways to do that which are productive, and ways to do it which are not.
Buying Democrat votes to thwart the will of Republicans in a Republican primary gets you, at best, a Pyrrhic victory. Some 49 percent of the GOP primary vote, which is a majority of the actual Republican vote, is now alienated from the Republican nominee. The Republican Party in Mississippi is now broken as a result, and Thad Cochran, Haley Barbour and the rest of the whiskey-swilling good ol’ boy set broke it.
What happens now? Cochran has to romance McDaniel to get his support, because without healing the GOP he’s going to lose to Travis Childers, the Democrat, in November. And McDaniel is challenging the results of the race. It’s unlikely he can change the results of the election, or potentially even have it thrown out and a new election called, but depending on the results of a ballot-box inspection he might well manage to convince himself and a lot of his supporters that Cochran won illegally last night.
The Barbour machine in Mississippi isn’t likely to turn on Cochran. There is too much at stake for them to choose principle at this late date; the time to do that was after McDaniel beat Cochran in the first round of the primary, and it was Barbour who cooked up the “expand the electorate” strategy instead. Should Cochran be elected in November, he’ll retire within two years and someone from the Barbour machine – perhaps even one of Barbour’s sons – will be appointed to the seat. They won’t give up that brass ring, and you can bet they won’t allow McDaniel to successfully challenge last night’s results in court.
So McDaniel, ultimately, will have to choose whether to become a “good soldier” and ask his people to support Cochran, or deliberately trash Cochran’s election bid by running as a write-in candidate in November.
If he does the latter, he will hand the election to Childers. The GOP establishment would thus paint him as the bad guy, and the destroyer of the party. But the establishment had little to say about Lisa Murkowski’s write-in candidacy after Joe Miller beat her in the Alaska GOP Senate primary in 2010; Murkowski managed to win rather than throw that election to the Democrat, but she could easily have cost the party a seat in different circumstances.
And if McDaniel were to throw the race to Childers it wouldn’t be McDaniel’s fault; it would be Cochran’s. It was Cochran who diluted the votes of Republicans in a Republican primary in order to win, and in doing so Cochran told GOP voters their votes count less than Democrat votes.
So if McDaniel wants to run as a write-in candidate and the Mississippi seat is lost, so be it.
If Cochran and the corruptocrats in Jackson who engineered that so-called victory last night are as smart as they think they are, they’d better invest in several sets of knee pads, and they’d better start making a list of promises they can offer to Chris McDaniel. He should listen to them, because getting rid of Harry Reid really is more important than which Republican holds that seat, but the illegitimate nature of what Cochran’s camp did means McDaniel is justified in driving a very, very hard bargain for his foregoing of a write-in campaign. He should skin them alive.
And the national GOP had better be ready with some sort of sanction or censure of Cochran’s tactics. This episode is going to drive a deeper wedge between the factions making up the Republican coalition, and the overarching project of defeating the Democrats and the Hard Left has been damaged by what Thad Cochran did.
Lots of conservative voters are going to check out as a result of this. And the argument against a third party just got weaker.
Thanks a lot, Thad and Haley. You jackasses really struck a blow for freedom last night.