Longtime Sen. Thad Cochran and his Tea Party-backed challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, battled their way Tuesday into an apparent Republican primary runoff, prompting GOP lobbyist John Feehery to lash out at Mississippi's voters.
I guess Mississippi doesn't want Federal money anymore. I betcha there are 49 states that will gladly take it.— John Feehery (@JohnFeehery) June 4, 2014
With approximately 99.5 percent of precincts reporting, McDaniel was leading Cochran 49.6 percent to 48.9 percent. Since neither candidate cracked 50 percent of the vote, the two will have to face off again in three weeks.
Cochran, 76, who's seeking a seventh term, would be the first Senate incumbent ousted this year if he is again bested by McDaniel, 42, in their rematch.
But Feehery, who has worked for House GOP leaders for 15 years and supports Cochran, is wrong to assume that if the senator survives the challenge it's a sign that Republican primary voters still like earmarks.
Indeed, the fact that McDaniel, who has run on a message of limited government and reduced federal spending, has forced the primary into a runoff would seem to indicate the opposite.
“This is a historic moment in this state’s history,” McDaniel said Tuesday, adding, “Our fight is not over. ... Whether it’s tomorrow or three weeks from now, we will stand victorious in this race.”
A runoff election may result in low voter turnout, which would likely hand victory to McDaniel, Real Clear Politics reported, but the real question is whether so-called GOP establishment groups will continue to spend cash on what has already been a $3 million campaign.
"We will expect a vigorous debate about the future of our country over the next three weeks and we will continue to fully support Thad Cochran,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins said.
The leader of a super PAC that favors Cochran also pledged to continue support.
"MS Senate run-off will decide if MS will have Thad representing MS interests or McDaniel beholden to his out-of-state funders,” Henry Barbour said in a tweet.