HATTIESBURG, Mississippi–The Club For Growth, the biggest-spending conservative group on behalf of Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel, is calling on six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) to drop out of the GOP Senate primary here rather than continue into a brutal three-week runoff.
“Yesterday’s historic vote makes it clear that Mississippians are ready to turn the page to a new generation of bold, conservative leadership,” Club For Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
“Senator Cochran has served honorably, but the rationale for his candidacy ended yesterday. He said he didn’t want to run again, but everyone asked him to,” Chocola continued. “Well, a plurality of Mississippi Republican voters just proved that they don’t want him to. Senator Cochran has had five decades in Washington and it’s clear that six more years of the same won’t have any impact on the direction of our country. He should do the honorable thing and decline to contest the runoff. Should he choose to persist, the Club for Growth PAC and conservatives throughout Mississippi will vigorously pursue this race to its conclusion, and we will look forward to the election of Senator Chris McDaniel.”
McDaniel, a two-term state senator, bested Cochran with at least a plurality of the votes cast on Tuesday. The count, with 99.6 percent of precincts reporting according to Politico, stands at 153,030 votes for McDaniel to 151,052 for Cochran while third candidate Tom Carey got 4,771 votes. Since Mississippi’s election laws require a candidate to get 50 percent plus one vote to win outright, and McDaniel’s total gives him 49.5 percent of the vote to Cochran’s 48.9 percent, that means the two candidates will face off in a runoff in three weeks.
Runoffs tend to favor insurgent primary challenger candidates, as seen in Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’s (R-TX) victory over Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in 2012. “The candidate with the strongest ground game has a clear advantage in a runoff scenario,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) upset David Dewhurst in the Texas GOP Senate primary in 2012, Dewhurst carried 44.6 percent of the primary vote to Cruz’s 34.2 percent. Cruz continued on to sweep the runoff with 56.8 percent to Dewhurst’s 43.2 percent. Grassroots shows up when it counts.”
Kibbe added that his group plans to double down its resources for the runoff. “Chris McDaniel is heading into a runoff scenario with an engaged network of grassroots activists who dedicated countless hours to neighborhood walking, phone banking, and community outreach events across the state,” Kibbe, whose group endorsed McDaniel back in October 2013, said.
“We plan to double down on our efforts to support the grassroots ground game in Mississippi to make sure Chris McDaniel defeats Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in a runoff. Mississippians are ready for new leadership,” Kibbe added.