How Mississippi Democrats And GOP Bigwigs Helped Thad Cochran Win

In an improbable ending to a wild race, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran (R) of Mississippi defeated tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in a primary runoff vote – and did so with a critical assist from Democratic voters, many of them African-American.

Senator Cochran’s upset victory Tuesday dealt a major blow to the national tea party movement, which had appeared poised to knock out a longtime Senate Republican incumbent for the third election cycle in a row. Cochran is best known in the Senate as a quiet “workhorse,” skilled at directing federal dollars to Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation.  

Just three weeks ago, Cochran’s 42-year political career looked to be finished. He had come in second behind Mr. McDaniel, a state senator, in the June 3 primary. Because neither had won a majority, the race went to a runoff. That’s when the Cochran campaign and key outside groups rewrote the playbook, aided by emergency fundraising by top GOP establishment figures in Washington.

Mississippi Democrats have their own nominee for the November election, former Rep. Travis Childers. If McDaniel had won on Tuesday, political analysts saw the Democrats as having an outside chance of victory in November. But with Cochran on the ballot, the seat is now considered safe for Republicans.

In Mississippi, Republicans have their work cut out for them in reuniting a party riven by the divisive spectacle of the Cochran-McDaniel primary. Nationally, too, the GOP’s divisions are as stark as ever.

“The narrative coming out of Cochran’s victory will be that the ‘establishment strikes back,’ ” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “The duel between the Hatfields and McCoys of the Republican Party is far from settled.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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