Attention from inside the beltway and around the US is focused on Mississippi politics like never before. Of most interest is the replacement of Thad Cochran’s seat. There are some national implications for the Republican majority that haven’t really been fleshed out in the media that deserve attention.
Sources inside the beltway tell Y’all Politics that the replacement of Cochran seat is a bet the farm proposition both short term and long term.
Here’s why. With a 51-49 majority in the US Senate, Republicans have no room to maneuver.
Assuming that Cochran’s seat is number 51, on April 1, the Republican majority goes to 50. However, also keep in mind that Arizona Senator John McCain has been on an extended absence due to treatment for brain cancer. So effectively, the majority on April 1, assuming McCain is still out for treatment goes to 49-49 with the Vice President as a tiebreaker.
With McCain out and Cochran retiring, that essentially chains Vice President Pence to the US Capitol to be the tiebreaking vote while the Senate is in session until Cochran’s seat is filled. Were another Republican vote to disappear unexpectedly, the majority would switch to the Democrats. So, it’s that big of a deal.
Midterms are generally not kind to the party of the incumbent president. Even though Democrats will be playing more defense for vulnerable incumbents and open seats, the Senate may well come down to a vote or two for the majority.
The US Senate is not expected to gavel back into session after the Easter break until Monday, April 9. Presumably, Governor Phil Bryant will have the selection for the seat in place and hopefully be in DC and be ready to be sworn in by the 9th.
But there is nervousness in the Capitol and it’s being telegraphed in the repeated articles about Bryant taking Cochran’s seat. No matter how many times or ways Bryant has said no, the story keeps getting pushed.
Those in DC theorize that there are only three people that could really keep Cochran’s seat safe in an open primary . . . Bryant, Tate Reeves and Delbert Hosemann. Anyone pick other than those three is perceived to introduce loads of political risk that it seems clear the national GOP would rather not bear. A Mississippi US Senate seat is not something that Republicans nationally should be worrying one iota about. The “Doug Jones” scenario, however implausible, still weighs heavy on the minds of folks in DC. Having to put money to work here would take away from winnable battleground seats like Missouri and West Virginia.
President Trump’s agenda depends on Mississippians electing two sane Republicans this November. The question remains, is Mississippi up to the challenge?