Mississippi GOP Senate Primary Looks Headed to a Runoff

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel is challenging Sen. Thad Cochran. 
National Journal
Andrea Drusch
June 3, 2014, 8:18 p.m.

The biggest Re­pub­lic­an primary of 2014 looks like it’s go­ing in­to over­time.

Neither Sen. Thad Co­chran nor his tea-party-backed primary chal­lenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, ap­peared able to se­cure the ma­jor­ity needed to win their party’s nom­in­a­tion in Mis­sis­sippi on Tues­day night. That trig­gers a June 24 run­off, ex­tend­ing their nasty cam­paign — and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ex­pens­ive bar­rage of tele­vi­sion ad­vert­ising.

With 94 per­cent of the vote coun­ted, McDaniel was ahead of Co­chran by about only 1,000 votes. A third can­did­ate, little-no­ticed real-es­tate agent Thomas Carey, took just enough to play spoil­er for both can­did­ates. 

But McDaniel’s team was con­fid­ent on Tues­day night. He entered the race last Oc­to­ber be­fore Co­chran had an­nounced his reelec­tion bid, and the state le­gis­lat­or quickly drummed up sup­port from the Club for Growth, the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund, Freedom­Works, and an as­sort­ment of oth­er con­ser­vat­ive groups. Co­chran was plan­ning to re­tire to­ward the end of the primary, he told The Wash­ing­ton Post, but he answered pleas from es­tab­lish­ment-minded sup­port­ers to run again as McDaniel and al­lies at­tacked him as a sym­bol of pork-bar­rel spend­ing prof­ligacy.

Not sur­pris­ingly for a race that be­came the pree­m­in­ent show­down between the Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment and the tea party, it at­trac­ted heavy spend­ing from out­side groups. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics, they spent more than $8 mil­lion in the race, and more money will likely come in over the next few weeks as both sides try to keep their sup­port­ers en­gaged for the quick run­off. Co­chran would be the first Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­or to lose re­nom­in­a­tion this cycle, and his fin­ish­ing be­low 50 per­cent in the ini­tial primary won’t do any­thing to de­ter his op­pos­i­tion.

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