Adapt, and you will overcome. … Essentially, [GOP strategists] conceded that if the election were about who can be the most conservative, Cochran couldn’t beat McDaniel. So rather than playing a losing hand, they changed the game. Cochran appealed to African Americans and other Democratic base voters — who can vote in GOP races in Mississippi’s open primary system, and who would prefer to be represented by the relatively pro-government Cochran than by the anti-government McDaniel. Basically, Cochran’s plan B was to woo Democrats. And it worked. (I realize this was a unique case, but what if Republicans always hustled this hard to win over African American voters…)
Serwer addresses the backlash from the base:
Conservatives may cry foul over McDaniel’s loss, whether or not it’s proven that Democrats made the difference. But there’s nothing wrong with crossing over to vote for the lesser of two evils in a primary in a place like Mississippi, where the result of the Republican primary for statewide office usually determines the outcome of the general election. It’s not even unique to Mississippi or this election – those of us who live in Washington, D.C. are quite familiar with the concept. The Democratic Primary almost always determines who will win the general election of citywide office in D.C., people who would be Republicans anywhere else register as Democrats so as to have a voice in the process. McDaniel himself voted Democratic a decade ago.
Alec MacGillis adds, “It is hard to overstate the significance and historical ironies of black Mississippians crossing party lines to rescue a senior member of the state’s Republican establishment.” Amy Davidson challenges McDaniel for crying “irregularities” in the face of those ironies:
What does he consider “regular” at a polling place in Mississippi? Whom would he like to see there?
Perhaps it might have occurred to him to appeal to black voters, who do make up more than a third of the state. Strategic voting, of the winking kind, is when you vote for the other party’s weaker or more marginal candidate, hoping that it will help your side further along. If Mississippi’s black voters were really the pawns of national machine-politics operatives, they might have been directed to get McDaniel in. His nomination would maybe give the Democratic candidate a chance that he wouldn’t usually have in Mississippi, or maybe McDaniel would have just embarrassed the G.O.P. nationally, as he had shown every indication he might do. (In addition to the break-ins, there was “Mamacita”-gate.)
But, in the past few weeks, Cochran, a deep conservative himself, made a real, targeted pitch to black Mississippians that, given the choice, he would be a better senator, and enough black voters and community leaders bought it. That’s how elections work, though not how they worked for generations in Mississippi, where people were killed in living memory just for the right to register to vote.
Jaime Fuller also responds to McDaniel contesting the results:
There is one section of Mississippi election law that the McDaniel team seems to think could work to their advantage. That section reads: “No person shall be eligible to participate in any primary election unless he intends to support the nominations made in which he participates.” In other words, if the Democratic voters who helped Cochran win plan to vote for his opponent, former Rep. Travis Childers, in the fall, that would, theoretically, be against Mississippi law.
“I wouldn’t be too optimistic if I were [McDaniel]” says John M. Bruce, head of the University of Mississippi political science department. “This issue has already been adjudicated.” A 2008 decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said that in order for a ballot to be thrown out, poll workers would need to ascertain that the voters already were planning on supporting a different candidate a few months down the road. As Bruce says, “that’s not enforceable”. Bruce — who has lived in Mississippi for over 20 years, says that he can’t remember anyone ever discussing this section of the state’s election law at such length. The 2008 case was mostly unnoticed. “No one even thought about this law,” he noted.
Sabato et al. look beyond those sour grapes:
The national Republican Party is the big winner. … Nowhere was the jubilation greater, once Cochran had won, than in the D.C. halls of GOP power. Now they don’t have to spend a dime this fall in Mississippi, and they don’t have to waste a breath defending McDaniel elsewhere.
Zeke Miller questions the conventional wisdom of the runoff coverage:
Conservative political consultant Keith Appell cautioned against interpreting Tuesday’s results as a knockout punch against the Tea Party, blaming McDaniel’s failure to win the required 50% of the vote in the initial primary on a blogger who incited outrage—and sympathy for the incumbent—by strangely filming inside the nursing home housing Cochran’s ailing wife. “Interpreting this as some kind of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ moment is an overreach,” Appell told TIME. … Conservatives and Tea Party activists have to take the long view, the big picture is that they’re really winning,” Appell added.
(Map by Philip Bump)