• Thad Cochran’s Stunning Comeback Win
  • July 4, 2014
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) won a stunning comeback victory in his runoff against Tea Party backed State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-MS) on Tuesday night. Many pundits had written off the six-term lawmaker after he finished behind McDaniel in the June 3rd primary.

    Because neither Cochran nor McDaniel reached 50 percent on June 3 it forced a runoff. A runoff that Cochran surprisingly won by more than 6,000 votes.

    He now moves on to face former Democratic Congressman Travis Childers in the general election, a race Cochran enters as the prohibitive favorite in red-state Mississippi.

    Cochran's victory caps what has been the most heated showdown of the 2014 primary season, a months-long battle that pitted conservative challenger Chris McDaniel and his allies—including groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund—against Cochran, an institution in Mississippi politics who had the backing of just about every influential Republican leader in the state and in Washington. The race has included allegations of criminal wrongdoing, open questions about Cochran's state of mind, and personal insults directed both ways. Establishment Republicans spent millions of dollars trying to prevent a victory by McDaniel, whose history of controversial comments would not only jeopardize their hold over Mississippi's Senate seat but also damage their candidates elsewhere.

    It was widely believed that a runoff heavily favored the insurgent McDaniel—and indeed some polls showed McDaniel with a 12-point lead over Cochran.

    However, in a skilled strategic move, Cochran and his allies focused their efforts on turning out underrepresented voters instead of winning over activists. Those voters, swayed by Cochran’s pledges to continue delivering federal money to the mostly poor, rural state appear to have changed the composition of the electorate enough to give Cochran the win, according to an assessment of the early vote tallies.

    Before the primary, most Mississippi political experts predicted turnout would reach a high of about 250,000. On Tuesday, in a runoff race that usually features a drop in turn out from the primary, more than 360,000 people voted—a remarkably high turnout figure that topped even the number of people who voted in the 2012 GOP presidential primary there.

    In the bigger picture, Cochran's victory is also a major coup for Senate Republicans. McDaniel was last of the candidates they feared could win the party's nomination who could emerge as a Todd Akin-like figure—someone who could give Democrats a chance even in Deep South Mississippi. Worse, they feared anything controversial he said would go national in the same way Akin's comment about rape did in 2012, damaging the party's chances of retaking the Senate.

    Republicans have now received the candidates they wanted—or at least avoided the ones they didn't want—in a host of battlegrounds with competitive primaries: Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, New Hampshire and, now, Mississippi. There are still a handful of primaries left—most notably, a three-way Republican battle in Alaska—but Republicans are confident they pose little threat to their preferred candidates.