Anyone who runs for public office at any level should know going in that it is rare in this day and age to run a campaign purely based on a candidate’s merit, vision, and record. Oh, it’s nice to think such pure thoughts but it’s not how things work.
Special interest groups, from the local chamber of commerce to business associations to political action committees around the country, insert themselves into races more or less to grab attention, to be seen as relevant, and to make their issue the issue in the campaign. It is as if their one red dot is more important than the other dots that comprise the full picture.
Here in Mississippi, out of state groups are attempting to define our U.S. Senate race, trying to create a storyline against senior Senator Thad Cochran and shielding Chris McDaniel specifically from getting his hands dirty.
Such a co-opted message allows state Senator McDaniel and any other potential challenger, Democrats included, to look deferential, even respectful, all while using scorched earth tactics against Cochran to paint him as the out of touch, “king of pork.”
It’s a strategy veiled in half-truths and full of spin, short on productive dialogue and long on slick zingers.
The Club for Growth PAC is a leader in this practice. It doles out millions in endorsement dollars to Republicans supporting their “primary tactic,” which is “to provide financial support from Club members to viable candidates to Congress who believe in pro-growth policies, limited government, low taxes and economic freedom, both in Republican primaries and general elections.”
However, these bomb-throwers have a history of not practicing what they preach.
The Club for Growth’s president is former Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola, who has endorsed McDaniel. He issued a response and supporters of the Club’s criticism of Cochran wrote pieces targeting Mississippi’s Sid Salter after an op-ed riled the Club for Growth where Salter framed the practice of discretionary appropriations, or earmarks, as one of the hot issues in the Cochran-McDaniel primary.
In his Sunday op-ed in the Clarion Ledger, Salter writes on the tiff, “…while a member of Congress in 2005, Chocola voted for the same “Bridge to Nowhere” appropriations bill that he and his group now castigate Cochran for supporting.”
Jennifer Steinhauer wrote a New York Times article on the Club, pointing out the obvious hypocrisy of its president in criticizing his former colleagues in Congress for supporting measures he also supported.
Steinhauer said, “If Mr. Chocola now holds the Republican world to a conservative fiscal orthodoxy he did not practice as a lawmaker, he does not see a problem. ‘The world has changed,’ he said. ‘And some of my views have changed. I am not asking to be elected now.'”
Quite convenient. However, their chosen one in Mississippi, Chris McDaniel, is running for office.
Cochran has announced he’s running, but has not put together any real visible campaign organization as of yet, but you can bet he will.
And just like Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, there will surely be significant independent expenditures looking at prior votes from McDaniel in the Mississippi Senate along with his personal business dealings, painting him as less than the conservative he proclaims to be.
It’s how the game is played.
At the end of the day, this U.S. Senate race is ultimately about who can best represent Mississippi’s interests while working with others on Capitol Hill to resolve our nation’s challenges. That’s the real storyline and all other campaign messages should flow from it, no matter which camp you’re in.