(WASHINGTON) — The Mississippi GOP Senate primary is officially headed for a runoff, possibly just a three-week extension of more intraparty warfare.
Backers of six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran now need to make the decision about whether to keep the fight up against a Tea Party challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, when he might very well end up as their nominee.
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is backing the pro-Cochran super PAC Mississippi Conservatives and, in an interview with ABC News, said he is forbidden from coordinating with the campaign, but would absolutely in no way back down from the fight.
“No, ma’am, not one bit,” Barbour said. “We are not going to let a bunch of people from Washington or New York dictate who represents Mississippi in the U.S. Senate.”
In a nail-biter of a race, McDaniel came out on top Tuesday with 49.5 percent of the vote to Cochran’s 49 percent. Less than 1,400 votes separated the two when counting finally was completed Wednesday afternoon. Mississippi requires a threshold of 50 percent to declare a winner, so there will be a runoff June 24.
Barbour called the race so far the “most negative, nasty primary I have ever seen,” noting the nursing home scandal and saying he can’t imagine the runoff could “be that bad again.”
He stressed that he believes McDaniel supporters are from out-of-state “special interest groups.”
“Club for Growth or FreedomWorks, the groups that spent the vast majority to attack Cochran, those guys couldn’t care less about Mississippi,” Barbour said. “They wouldn’t know Pascagoula from Pontotoc.”