A Thad Unorthodox Strategy: Reax

Cillizza sizes up the significance of Cochran’s narrow win over his Tea Party challenger:

He bet on incumbency. … Look at Cochran’s message on TV in the closing days of the race. It’s a Republican message circa 2004: I have tons of seniority in the Senate and that means good things for the state. Vote me out and you can kiss all of that goodbye. (Hell, he brought Arizona Sen. John McCain in to campaign for him in the final days of the contest!)  There is absolutely no evidence — before this victory — that a longtime incumbent running on being, well, a longtime incumbent could win in the modern day Republican party.  And especially not in a runoff!

Aaron Blake adds:

[I]t’s rare for an incumbent to improve his or her performance in a runoff, as Cochran did. And more often than not, the challenger surges in a big way. Of the last seven incumbents facing primary runoffs in big-ticket races, all but two have fared significantly worse in the runoff, ceding around 75 percent (or more) of the “up for grabs” votes to the challenger.

Like me, Josh Marshall is struck by the sectarianism within the GOP underscored by McDaniel’s loss:

[I]t seems clear that Democrats played some role, quite possibly a very important role in Cochran’s victory. And the fact that almost by definition a lot of them were black Democrats, courted by the Cochran camp, is going to put gas and kerosene and everything flammable on the bonfire of intra-party recrimination. This will not go down easily.

Or as one very prominent Tea Party activist put it:

Ben Jacobs has background on that “teaming up”:

As Cochran appealed to Democrats, particularly African Americans in the racially polarized state, McDaniel’s campaign cried foul and talked about using election monitors to discourage Democrats from voting. At issue was a Mississippi law that mandated that any voters in a party primary would have to commit to supporting that party’s nominee in November. However, the law was nigh on unenforceable and would have also presented challenges for McDaniel himself who had refused to commit to support Cochran if he lost his primary.

And now McDaniel will challenge the election results, likely along the lines of that Mississippi law. Tim Murphy has more on the runoff’s racial character:

Team McDaniel’s [poll-watcher] tactics seemed to bolster Cochran’s outreach strategy. “The tea party intends to prevent blacks from voting on Tuesday,” read one mailer distributed in pic_cornerblack neighborhoods. It noted that McDaniel had once hosted a controversial radio show and had voted against a civil rights museum. “Mississippians cannot and will not be intimidated to the bygone era of intimidating black Mississippians from voting,” this campaign flyer declared. The mailer asserted that McDaniel “made racist comments on his radio show.” It was a point Cochran’s campaign had been hammering for months, seemingly without affecting a sufficient number of white Republican primary voters. As a right-wing radio host in the 2000s, McDaniel had blamed hip-hop for gun violence. He had mocked poor blacks for craving “big screen plasma TV’s, Randy Moss jerseys, Air Jordan sneakers or any type of ‘bling-bling.’” He had decried discussion of reparations for slavery—pledging to move to Mexico, if such a law were ever passed. He also had spoken at events held by a neo-Confederate group that bashed Abraham Lincoln and celebrated secession.

His incendiary comments, some of which were first reported by Mother Jones, gave Cochran a bona fide reason to ask African-American voters, who comprise 36 percent of the state’s electorate, to keep McDaniel far from Washington’s halls of power.

A few other Tea Party candidates lost last night, but Weigel warns against over-interpreting the results:

Having narrowly bailed out Thad Cochran and avoided disasters in Colorado and New York, “the establishment” is thumming on war drums and predicting victory everywhere. It’s certainly possible! But a narrow defeat of Tom Tancredo doesn’t auger anything spectacular; a narrow Mississippi victory that dependent on mobilizing the hates of the Tea Party and lovers of SNAP is not necessarily applicable to turnout models in the swing races.

And how much was really at stake for the GOP? In Oklahoma, the winner of the Senate primary was always assured to become a senator (Democrats are heading for a runoff between a state senator and a crazy perennial candidate), but the rise of an ambitious thirtysomething black conservative has been halted. In Mississippi, McDaniel was strongly favored over Childers. In New York, had Hanna lost, his Tea Party foe would have been elected by default — no Democrat was running.

Molly Ball zooms out:

If there’s any segment of the GOP that ought to have egg on its face, it’s national Tea Party groups and figureheads. Dave Brat, the obscure college professor who took out Cantor, won largely without the help of these groups. Meanwhile, when they were the most heavily involved, in races that should have been favorable to them, they couldn’t close the deal. The organizations claiming to speak for the Tea Party nationally do not appear to be plugged into the real grassroots or have the ability to mobilize effectively in support of the candidates they favor.