GOP Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeats Tea Party opponent

The septuagenarian senator from Mississippi pulled off a surprise victory with some Democratic help

Topics: Thad Cochran, Chris McDaniel, Tea Party, Republican Party, GOP primary, GOP runoff, GOP run-off, Mississippi primary, Mississippi GOP, ,

GOP Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeats Tea Party opponentRepublican Senator Thad Cochran (Credit: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a remarkable political turnaround, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi edged out tea party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel Tuesday night in a bruising, costly Republican runoff that pitted Washington clout against insistence on conservative purity.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cochran had 51 percent to McDaniel’s 49 percent, three weeks after McDaniel had beaten the veteran lawmaker in the initial primary round but had fallen short of the majority needed for nomination. In the three-week dash to the runoff, Cochran and his allies had highlighted his seniority and Washington clout while McDaniel had argued that Cochran was part of a Washington blight of federal overspending.

The victory for a stalwart of the Senate Appropriations Committee was a fresh blow to the tea party movement, which spent millions to cast aside Cochran, a mainstream Republican who won a U.S. House seat in President Richard Nixon’s GOP wave of 1972 and has served in the Senate for more than three decades.

In another setback for the tea party, two-term Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma won the GOP nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down with two years left in his term. In the solidly Republican state, Lankford is all but assured of becoming the next senator. Part of the House GOP leadership, Lankford defeated T.W. Shannon, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the state’s first black House speaker, backed by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, two stalwarts of the right.

You Might Also Like

Despite Congress’ abysmal public approval ratings, incumbents have largely prevailed midway through the primary season — with two notable exceptions.

Little-known college professor Dave Brat knocked out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s Republican primary this month, and Republican Rep. Ralph Hall, 91, lost in a Texas runoff to a younger Republican.

McDaniel declared as he voted Tuesday, “We are here, we’re going to fight for our belief system no matter what, and we’re going to reclaim Washington, D.C., one race at a time.”

But Cochran and his allies, notably former Gov. Haley Barbour, promoted his Washington establishment credentials, focusing on the billions he funneled to his home state, one of the poorest in the nation. In a last-ditch effort, Cochran reached out to traditionally Democratic voters — blacks and union members — who could cast ballots in the runoff. That possible factor in Cochran’s victory is sure to be cited by critics in days and weeks to come.

In predominantly black neighborhoods of Hattiesburg’s south side, an organized effort for Cochran was evident. Ronnie Wilson, a 50-year-old unemployed Hattiesburg man, said he had been encouraged by his pastor to vote for Cochran.

“They say the other guy is trying to cut food stamps and all that,” Wilson said. “I’m trying to look after the majority of people not working.”

McDaniel had railed against the federal spending sprees by Cochran but his calls to slash the budget unnerved some voters.

Frank McCain, a 71-year-old retired tax administrator from Mendenhall, voted for Cochran.

“I believe he is doing a good job,” McCain said. “But mostly I’m more scared of the other candidate. He wants to do things like not taking school funding when everyone else is.”

In Mississippi, outside groups, from tea party organizations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent some $12 million on the GOP Senate runoff. Former Green Bay Packers quarterback — and Gulfport, Mississippi, native — Brett Favre called the 76-year-old Cochran a “proven and respected leader” in one Chamber ad.

McDaniel, 41, an attorney and former radio host, had the strong backing of Palin and the tea party movement, which saw his political approach as a change from a Washington status quo of mainstream conservatives willing to compromise.

Kellie Phipps, a 42-year-old public school teacher from Taylorsville, voted for McDaniel. “I think we need some new blood,” Phipps said.

In November, Cochran will face Democrat Travis Childers, a former congressman, in the heavily Republican state.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...