On June 3, Chris McDaniel stunned the nation by edging out Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) in the Mississippi primary, just barely missing the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff. This was no longer a long-shot pariah challenge within the party; McDaniel had topped a 42-year incumbent in a high-turnout election. Despite the inveterate dependency, the endless relationships and political connections Cochran had forged throughout the state, McDaniel broke through the political machine most pundits thought to be impervious just one year ago.
Nonetheless, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) dove into the Senate runoff full-throttle on behalf of the indolent incumbent. Despite the clear understanding that Cochran would only be able to win the runoff by turning out Democrat voters in an effort to overpower the GOP voters, McConnell and the NRSC raised $825,000 for the Cochran campaign. The NRSC also dumped in $175,000 in get-out-the-vote efforts in the final days of the campaign – a GOTV effort that was focused on turning out Democrat voters against the core principles of the GOP platform.
Ultimately, their efforts, in conjunction with the local Super PAC headed by the Barbour gang, successfully turned out roughly 40,000 specifically targeted African-American Democrats. This was enough to overpower McDaniel’s robust turnout in heavily Republican counties and coming out 6,900 votes ahead. According to estimates from a New York Times data cruncher, McDaniel likely won the GOP vote by at least 8 points, roughly in line with the projections of pre-election polling.
We now know that racist robo calls and flyers were deployed in black communities, which rallied support for Cochran through praising Obama, repudiating mainstays of the GOP platform, and insinuating bigotry against McDaniel and GOP base voters. The flyers look awfully similar to those sent out by Henry Barbour’s Super PAC, “Mississippi Conservatives.” While the robo calls were illegally placed without disclaimers, there is evidence that the Barbour Super PAC paid shady Democrat firms to place robo calls, although the content of those calls have yet to be identified.
Hence, this is not your garden variety narrow victory in an acrimonious primary. There are a number of red lines that have been crossed here – disturbing questions that beg answers from Senators Jerry Moran and Mitch McConnell:
1) Heading forward, is the NRSC and GOP leadership happy with a campaign designed to win with Democrat votes in a Republican primary? A number of states have open primaries, but do they believe it is good for the party to actively seek cross-over votes to overpower a clear GOP majority for one candidate?
2) Are they content with winning a primary through race baiting against their own party by playing African American voters and President Obama against the GOP party faithful? Is this something they plan to replicate in the future?
3) There are a number of sharp disagreements over policy issues within the party. Many in the establishment want conservatives to drop social issues and border security from our party’s platform. But bedrock issues such as cutting spending, welfare reform, and balanced budgets are the glue that holds all Republicans together. It represents the foundation of the GOP platform promoting upward mobility over dependency. Thad Cochran clearly came out ahead solely because he attracted Democrats on a message repudiating these ideals of the party. Is that Kosher? Do they condone such behavior and is that good for the party headed forward?
4) Do they believe we should attract black voters by engaging in race baiting and promoting food stamps or should be promote the Republican message of school choice, upward mobility, economic growth, and cracking down on illegal immigrants who take their jobs? If the latter, will they repudiate Thad Cochran? If the former, do they plan to repeat that strategy in the general election?
5) If it is this easy to turn out African American voters on an anti-Republican, pro-Obama message in a Republican primary, imagine how easy it is for Democrats to engage in the same race-baiting messaging. What lesson will Democrats in the south, such as Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Kay Hagan, (D-NC) and Michele Nunn (D-GA) learn from you condoning this strategy if they can now say you agree with their premise about Republicans?
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