By Iola Register, June 26
By most accounts, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi was not expected to win re-election in the June 24 run-off primary.
The elder statesman, long accustomed to coasting in his incumbency, waged a lackluster campaign that many viewed as complacent, or worse, weary, after 42 years in Washington, D.C.
When he came in second to State Sen. Chris McDaniel in the June 3 primary election, Cochran learned his message must change: Bringing home the bacon with government projects is now interpreted as government largesse, the antithesis of McDaniel’s Tea Party mantra of cut, cut, cut.
McDaniel’s call for austerity caused not a few to reassess what the outcomes may look like, especially because in Mississippi federal funds comprise a whopping 49 percent of its state general revenue.
(In Kansas, federal funds comprise 32.9 percent of our budget.)
Some constituents recalled McDaniel’s vote against a projected nursing school at the University of Southern Mississippi and wondered how that would translate on a wider scale, including public education in general, health care and transportation.
Others voiced concern of McDaniel’s partisan-style politics when he criticized Cochran’s willingness to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats.
To their credit, Tea Partiers move mountains. They motivate. They campaign. They vote.
That’s how Tea Party candidate David Brat, a virtual unknown, beat longtime incumbent Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Meanwhile, the rest of the electorate watches with a bemused que sera, sera resignation.
In the last days of the campaign, Cochran took a page out of McDaniel’s playbook and appealed to the sidelined, primarily African Americans as well as Democrats in the solidly Republican state.
Those two demographics helped propel Cochran to win the race by a comfortable 1.8 percent margin.
Most likely this is the last election Mississippi will allow all-comers to vote in its primary elections. More and more, Republicans are tightening the noose on voters. In Kansas, the deadline to register with a party was changed this year to June 1 in efforts to stymie last-minute changeovers between political parties. It used to be voters had until two weeks before a primary election to register with a particular party.
No doubt, campaigners for U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas kept close watch as the votes were tallied for Cochran. The similarities between the two abound, though Roberts has a decided advantage in that his field of opponents lacks any significant political experience.
Though as the season has proved, candidates dare not rest easy until the last vote has been cast.