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Mississippi Democrats could impact 2014 Senate race
How will Cole, Democrats play their rare opportunity?

by Frank Corder
Mississippi Democrats are in an interesting predicament.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel throwing his hat in the ring for U.S. Senator, aiming squarely at a challenge to senior Senator Thad Cochran, has moved their cheese.

Former Billy McCoy VPAC chair and active Democratic strategist Robert Hooks recently posted the comment below on his Facebook:

“Many Democrats in Mississippi seem to have gotten upset at the prospect of United States Senator Thad Cochran being challenged by State Senator Chris McDaniel. I have read quite a few Democrats saying they would vote in the GOP primary just to support Thad Cochran. Let me put a couple of ideas out there. First, If you are a well known liberal Democrat who wants to see Thad Cochran win in one of the most conservative Democratic-Hating Republican primaries in the nation, perhaps filling Facebook up with how much you are in love with him actually does not help his cause… Perhaps we should all wait a little while. Talk privately, and see if there is maybe a more ambitious option we could choose.”

Translation: Shut up and plan to vote for Cochran on the down low.

Democrats know, just as we all know, it is an almost impossible climb for a Democratic candidate to win statewide in Mississippi unless you held office before the conservative revolution following the 2007 election. The Musgrove vs. Wicker Senate bout was perhaps the last, best chance yellow dogs had and it really wasn't that close (55/45).

The political environment is certainly worse for Democrats in Mississippi now, thanks in large part to their national party leaders and folks in new media exposing their ties that bind. The Mississippi Democratic Party simply doesn’t have anyone that can legitimately win statewide (especially against Thad Cochran), save Attorney General Jim Hood and he isn't jumping at the chance to change horses because he knows his best option to remain in any office is to stay put.

Democrats know that Cochran has drawn decent support from the black community in the past.

It’s unlikely that McDaniel would garner any appreciable percentage of the black vote in a general election, in large part because of his ties to the Tea Party and the mainstream media implications that brings, fair or not.

Mississippi Democrats must now evaluate whether or not they field a real candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014.

The very best candidate Democrats could field will get clobbered by Cochran if he gets through a primary and Rickey Cole’s gang knows it. Cochran has always been known as bipartisan during his tenure and even though he doesn’t vote with Democrats a lot on the federal level, he’s very accessible to them at home.

However, a Ronnie Musgrove or Jim Hood type might have a chance against someone as polarizing as a Tea Party labeled candidate such as McDaniel if the state senator could unseat Cochran in the primary. We saw this with Christine O’Donnell and Sharon Angle in the 2012 cycle – they rode the wave out of a primary but were utterly unelectable in a general election contest.

Perhaps Mississippi Democrats field a candidate that looks and sounds just conservative enough to steal a few votes, taking their chances knowing that they are merely offering up a sacrificial lamb against Cochran.

Or, with the Congressional races in Mississippi unlikely to see a shift in parties, Democrats could sit 2014 out, cross over, and help Cochran to ensure that McDaniel does not get through the primary. A McDaniel victory would be much more a disaster for Democrats than a Cochran win, which is why you find them scrambling on social media and elsewhere.

My guess is Mississippi Democrats will get a small infusion of funds from former governor Musgrove’s new PAC and a few other sources but it won’t be substantial enough to make a real run against Cochran or McDaniel, which means they will quietly work to find Cochran crossover votes and the June Republican Primary will see a slight uptick in turnout.

I do believe primaries to be good things and running contested races makes candidates and parties, and ultimately the elected officials that come out of them, better refined.

But it cannot be overlooked that in recent years Democrats have rarely had an opportunity in Mississippi to make such an impact as we could see in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. How they decide to play their cards could actually impact the election’s outcome.


Posted October 22, 2013 - 4:43 pm

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