One of the nation’s top political forecasters declared Tuesday that six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is in “deep trouble” against conservative challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel in this year’s Mississippi GOP senate primary on June 3.
Stuart Rothenberg wrote in Roll Call that McDaniel actually has “the best chance of any anti-establishment Senate hopeful to knock off an incumbent, and the defeat of six-term Senate veteran Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) would send shock waves through both the national media and the Republican Party.”
“Cochran, 76, is in trouble – in deep trouble – primarily because of changes in the Republican Party,” Rothenberg declared. “But it’s also true that the senator, and his campaign, didn’t start his re-election effort where they needed to be.”
On at least two separate occassions, Cochran, who reportedly wanted to retire but was convinced to run for another term so he could potentially chair the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, has admitted that he was unfamiliar with the Tea Party movement. Rothenberg reported that Cochran, who has not had a competitive primary battle, is “rusty,” “has no real organization,” and has “lost touch over the years.”
Rothenberg, who runs the influential and nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, also wrote that when Cochran was first elected to Congress, “members were expected to ‘bring home the bacon’ to their districts or states like Southern Democrats did.” That is exactly what Cochran has done, as he has become known as one of Washington’s top appropriators who has worked across the aisle for more government spending even if that meant racking up more debt for the country.
Breitbart News has reported that “Cochran has voted on at least 11 occasions to raise the debt ceiling by at least $7.7 trillion over the past 24 years” in addition to voting for No Child Left Behind, which “conservatives revolted against during George W. Bush’s administration.”
Time magazine described Cochran as a “seasoned appropriator” who is a “spitting image of the Republican establishment,” which are attributes that, Rothenberg notes, are deeply unpopular among today’s conservatives.
McDaniel is the type of anti-establishment conservative that appeals to conservatives who want to reduce spending, and that is why McDaniel has received the endorsement of groups like the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and FreedomWorks.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose endorsement has the most impact in GOP primaries, also endorsed McDaniel, saying the race represented a bare-knuckled fight between the D.C. establishment and the conservative grassroots for the future of the party.
“The Mississippi Senate race is a clear fight for the future of the Republican Party against the entrenched interests of the permanent political class in D.C.,” Palin said. “We desperately need new conservative leaders in the U.S. Senate who will serve with passion, intelligence, and integrity.”
To win, Rothenberg says that “McDaniel needs to roll up big margins in the Hattiesburg area (Lamar, Forrest and Jones counties), win in blue-collar Jackson County (Pascagoula) and get a big vote out of fast-growing, suburban DeSoto County, a Memphis suburb where voters identify more with Tennessee than with Cochran and Mississippi” while Cochran has to do well in “Northeastern Mississippi (Tupelo), the Delta (the agricultural area of the state) and metropolitan Jackson, the state’s largest city,” in addition to racking up “good margins in Harrison County (Biloxi and Gulfport), the second largest county in the state.”
Rothenberg notes that if Cochran were to win, it may be because of large turnout from voters in Mississippi who liked the funds Cochran brought to the state after Hurricane Katrina, something the Cochran campaign has used to contrast Cochran from McDaniel. A low-turnout primary would favor McDaniel.
Nevertheless, a Cochran supporter told Rothenberg that he was “genuinely concerned” because “there is no question” that the political environment favors McDaniel.
As Breitbart News has reported, though they may have realized how vulnerable Cochran is a bit too late, D.C. and Mississippi establishments, led by the Barbour family, have been rushing to Cochran’s rescue.
“But tea party and libertarian Republican groups are likely to ramp up their spending as the June 3 Mississippi primary approaches,” Rothenberg writes. “And their message will be loud and clear: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)’s time is past and only Chris McDaniel will shake up Washington and change the culture on Capitol Hill.”