SPOTLIGHT

Could Democrats Beat Chris McDaniel?

Republican Senate candidate Chris McDaniel of Mississippi
National Journal
Alex Roarty
June 24, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

Make no mis­take: Chris McDaniel (R) walks in­to to­night’s Mis­sis­sippi Sen­ate primary run­off the fa­vor­ite. That’s the as­sess­ment of just about every Re­pub­lic­an op­er­at­ive keep­ing a close eye on the race — even those friendly with Sen. Thad Co­chran (R). With that in mind, some GOP op­er­at­ives are already start­ing to con­tem­plate what would hap­pen if McDaniel makes it to the gen­er­al elec­tion.

— The oppo hits leveled against the state sen­at­or will leave a mark to last long after Tues­day. State party lead­ers, the Bar­bours, and of­fi­cials at the NR­SC have done everything from call­ing McDaniel a crim­in­al to link­ing him with white su­prem­acists. Just as bad: They’ve said re­peatedly that should McDaniel win the nom­in­a­tion, Trav­is Childers (D) could go on to win in the fall.

— Demo­crats think Childers could po­ten­tially beat McDaniel, too (though it would be very dif­fi­cult; not­ably, most strategists rank Mis­sis­sippi as a much less prom­ising pick-up op­por­tun­ity than either Ken­tucky or Geor­gia). And they’re de­lighted be­cause the GOP’s at­tempts to paint McDaniel as an ex­trem­ist isn’t a mes­sage that needs any tweak­ing for the fall. If the goal is to win over 100,000 or so Co­chran sup­port­ers, Demo­crats might start by simply du­plic­at­ing an ad Co­chran’s cam­paign is run­ning now.

— In the weeks after Tues­day’s run­off, watch to see if McDaniel is able to re­con­cile with any part of the Co­chran cam­paign, the NR­SC, or maybe most im­port­antly, Haley Bar­bour him­self. Any such meet­ing of the minds would be a big sym­bol for Mis­sis­sippi voters and no doubt of­fer a boost to his fun­drais­ing. Re­pub­lic­ans have made awk­ward re­la­tion­ships like this work be­fore: Just re­mem­ber Mitch Mc­Con­nell and Rand Paul in 2010.

McDaniel’s best as­set is that he’d still be run­ning in Mis­sis­sippi, in a midterm year, at a time when Pres­id­ent Obama‘s ap­prov­al num­bers are nearly dip­ping in­to the 30s in some polls. But even in a good state and strong en­vir­on­ment, there could be a lot of drama there the next five months — if McDaniel does, in fact, win Tues­day night.
— Alex Roarty

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