Chris McDaniel has a decision to make.
No, it's not whether to "keep fighting" or to send another fundraising email in his failed bid and subsequent untimely, porous challenge for the US Senate. That's second nature for him at this point.
McDaniel must decide if he will seek reelection for the Jones County state senate seat he's held for two terms or if he's too big for that now.
There's no doubt McDaniel would cruise to a reelection victory in his home district. After all, he outpaced US Senator Thad Cochran by almost a 10-1 spread in the Free State.
But is being a state senator good enough for McDaniel in his own mind?
There's no question McDaniel wants desperately to stay relevant and in the political spotlight. Being out of elective office makes that difficult, unless you grab a seat on the political celebrity bus tour, write a book and hit the speakers' circuit.
However, assuming that's not what McDaniel has lined up (and that is a big assumption) not running for some office wouldn't appear to be in character for the Tea Party's newest martyr.
McDaniel is facing a tough road in the state senate come January 2015. Senate leadership and a majority of his colleagues in that chamber aren't too thrilled with how he ran his US Senate race. Listen to the interview
I did with state Sen. Brice Wiggins just last week as a prime example.
If he shows back up on the Senate floor, McDaniel's colleagues will have ample opportunities to show him how little weight he will carry. At this point, McDaniel would have trouble getting a motion to adjourn for lunch past the Chair in the Mississippi Senate.
McDaniel has to decide if he wants to put himself back in this situation for four more years as a state senator, essentially relegating himself to being the odd man out and overall an ineffective representative for his constituents.
Yes, McDaniel is being encouraged to run statewide against one of the state officials on the Tea Party's hit list. But would running for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State or State Auditor be big enough for McDaniel?
Bryant, Reeves, Hosemann and Pickering are all safe come 2015 despite the talk otherwise. Bryant is very popular and McDaniel's popularity is slipping. Reeves has a tremendous war chest and a strong grasp on the state Senate; McDaniel is begging for money daily. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to run to the right of Bryant socially or to the right of Reeves fiscally. Hosemann has repeatedly been proven right on election issues and his name ID is solid; McDaniel obviously struggles with election law. Pickering is taking on corruption and consistently being recognized for doing a stellar job; McDaniel's questionable associations keep seeping out.
So what's McDaniel's play?
How does he stay relevant, meet his most rabid supporters' expectations, and rebuild his brand?
Does he wait for the next US Senate race or perhaps plot a Congressional run to target Steven Palazzo in the 4th District?
Here's my two cents of advise:
McDaniel should seek reelection as a state senator and serve his constituents the best he can while mending fences and building coalitions within the Republican Party. Stop the press conferences and the anti-Tate et al. rhetoric via the Senate Conservative Coalition. Take time with his family. End the narcissistic 'McDaniel Republicans' worship, the 'woe is me, they stole this election' talk, and show he can learn from this in a very real, practical way.
If he does that, McDaniel may be able to one day in the distant future run for higher office with the respect of not only his most ardent supporters but others who now question his very sanity.
However, as I write this, two things keep popping in my head - 1). some Republicans (even McGOP Republicans) will never again support McDaniel based on this race and 2). I'm not sure this scenario is even possible in the McDaniel world.
So here's my other cent of advise...
If McDaniel is now too big to just be a state senator, why not run for Attorney General in 2015?
If he's the Conservative Republican pro-libertate he says he is that's not scared of anything, that's the one place McDaniel could fight and really help unify the party. It would be the most challenging test on a statewide level and one Republicans of every style want to see won by the GOP. It could potentially coalesce the party faithful around the outcast and bridge the ever widening gap.
Jim Hood has cruised to reelection and appears on track to do so again. If McDaniel believes he's as strong statewide as his yes men say, then I say man up and step into the ring with Hood instead of being hell-bent to burn your own house down.
The narrative is there just waiting to be told if you've listened to McDaniel's speeches - most corrupt state, illegal voting, questionable interpretation of law, and so on.
But as has been the case with other once promising political up-and-comers, ambition often trumps political reality, meaning what makes the most sense isn't what McDaniel is likely to do.
Posted September 9, 2014 - 9:49 am