All the stars seemed aligned for Tea Party and more conservative groups in the Magnolia State, as they prepared for a GOP runoff victory against veteran Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) – but when the votes were counted in Mississippi, the GOP Establishment had chalked up another 2014 victory on the road to November.
“Congrats to Thad Cochran on his victory tonight!” tweeted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who is one of a number of examples of GOP Senators who have been able to withstand Tea Party challengers.
“Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s primary win seen as crushing defeat for tea party movement,” was the headline on the Associated Press story being beamed around the nation.
With 99% of precincts reporting in Mississippi, Cochran had 50.8% of the vote to 49.2% for state Senator Chris McDaniel. The lead was over 6,300 votes.
As for McDaniel, he refused to concede defeat on Tuesday night, as his supporters charged that Cochran forces had prevailed by getting Democrats to vote for him in the runoff.
“Before this race ends we have to be certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters,” McDaniel said on Twitter after midnight.
Others joined McDaniel in that assessment.
“Unfortunately in Mississippi, nefarious campaign tactics seem to have won the day over ideas and a bold conservative vision,” said the Tea Party Express.
Usually, primary runoffs are nothing but a path to the election graveyard for incumbents – but Cochran was able to turn that around by churning out extra votes along the Gulf Coast in both Harrison and Jackson counties.
The difference maker may have been in Hinds County, home to the state capital of Jackson, where Cochran dramatically improved his primary night performance, taking 72% of the vote.
As for who can vote in the primaries in Mississippi, the Magnolia State does not have a closed party system, as voters do not register with any poltiical party.
That means anyone – whether they are really a Democrat or a Republican in their minds – can vote in the party primary of the other party.
The only state voters who were not eligible to vote in the GOP runoff between Cochran and McDaniel were Mississippi voters who took a Democratic Party ballot back on June 3.