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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In a release Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that President Obama has commuted and/or reduced the sentences of another 111 convicted criminals, mostly convicted of drug possession or trafficking. About 35 were serving life sentences.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Monday he'd now be willing to hold a hearing on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in a lame-duck session of Congress. While he said he wouldn't push for it, he said if "Hillary Clinton wins the White House, and a majority of senators convinced him to do so," he would soften his previous opposition.
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The Convention of States Project, which seeks to force a constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution, will hold a "dry run" in Colonial Williamsburg starting Sept. 21. "Several states have already followed the process in Article V to endorse the convention." Thirty-four are required to call an actual convention. "The dry run in Williamsburg is meant to show how one would work and focus on the changes and potential constitutional amendments that would be proposed."