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The Politics of 51
Ripple effect depends on who Mississippi Republicans nominate for U.S. Senate

by Frank Corder
The June 3 primary was an historic day in Mississippi. It was the first time in 72 years a sitting U.S. Senator lost at the ballot box.

State senator and national talk radio / Tea Party darling Chris McDaniel edged ahead of senior U.S. Senator Thad Cochran by some 1,400 votes. However, the race wasn't over; neither earned the necessary fifty percent plus one to avoid a runoff.

Now the June 24 runoff is nearing and it too will be another historic day in Mississippi, either with the state reelecting its senior influential powerbroker or hiring a newbie buoyed by out-of-state special interests.

51... That's the only number that counts. And 50 won’t do it.

The ultimate goal for the Republican Party in this 2014 midterm is to win enough seats to control the U.S. Senate enabling the GOP to counter the Obama administration's harmful liberal policies.

Here in Mississippi that means we must balance our state's interests with remaining in a position to effectively influence national policies whether we get 51 or not.

A Cochran win means Democrats don’t put up the same fight as they will if it's McDaniel. Out-of-state Democratic money will not flow as freely, allowing them to focus on an easier target in another state and leaving Childers with little hope, essentially handing Cochran a seventh term and making the north Mississippi Democrat irrelevant.

Mississippi will be considered safely in the R column by political oddsmakers and the road to November will not be filled with drama, scandal, break-ins, and uncertainty at every turn if Cochran is the Republican nominee.

More importantly, a Cochran nomination also frees up millions in GOP donations that could be utilized in true battleground states on the way to that magic 51.

For McDaniel, he is the slight favorite heading into Tuesday and could conceivably win by a couple of points depending on the turnout. But a McDaniel win moves the needle left, meaning Mississippi goes from a safe R with Cochran to a leans R with McDaniel. Why?

With the challenger as the nominee, the months leading up to November will be as bad, and likely worse, than what we have had to endure during this primary season. McDaniel cannot afford the missteps his staff has caused to be repeated.

There is a very real scenario where the DSCC and other outside liberal groups dump $5 million plus into Childers' effort as control of the Senate may be in the balance.

You see, if McDaniel wins the primary on Tuesday, the GOP will have to battle for Mississippi which means money Republicans will have to spend to hold serve on what should be a layup seat. The worst case scenario is that the money and effort that a McDaniel win may force to be expended here may cause another domino to knock over somewhere else, knocking Republicans out on their quest to 51.

Spending money to save an otherwise safe seat hurts Republicans nationally, but to compete with Childers and protect McDaniel, that's likely what will be required.

If McDaniel wins, Mississippi Democrats and Harry Reid like their chances a lot more and they’ve been pretty open about that. And since Democrats traditionally start statewide elections with 38-40% of the vote, turnout and healing primary wounds will be key for McDaniel. He won't be able to hit cruise and coast into November.

Mississippi will likely see a new barrage of all of the crazy stuff surrounding McDaniel, from his radio talk show to associations with questionable white preservationist groups to rumors of his personal life and much more. And Mississippi Democrats will be unrepentant about lobbing those accusations.

Cochran voters have been less overtly opposed to supporting the Republican nominee if their guy doesn't win as has McDaniel supporters, however there are some beginning to now say they cannot support McDaniel because of how his supporters, staff and even he has acted during this election. He is becoming toxic to more than a few. As one voter told me, "I'll go vote for my congressman but I'll leave that Senate space blank."

If you are a Republican, however, and you really want to jam it to Obama, you want that 51. That’s the only number that matters.

Cochran, then, is the most expedient, obvious choice because he gives Mississippi a fighting chance at influencing policy, getting results, and controlling the nation's purse either with 51 or less.

Cochran has been able to generate successes for Mississippi even when in the minority and far left Democrats are at the helm. McDaniel is less likely to be able to operate under such a scenario, especially when he says he will not compromise.

The bottom line is that a McDaniel nomination moves the needle and gives Democrats hope while sacrificing precious dollars around the country to keep Mississippi in the R column; a Cochran win does none of that.

Posted June 19, 2014 - 7:35 am

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