The left leaning North Carolina based Public Policy Polling organization recently conducted and released a poll on the 2014 Mississippi U.S. Senate race. It should be noted that PPP polls for progressive campaigns and organizations on a private basis, meaning any “results” are normally nothing more than propaganda for Democratic efforts, especially when focused on Republican primaries.

There are lots of folks on both sides of the aisle that have incentive to keep Thad Cochran from running. Democrats feel like an open seat at least theoretically could force Republicans to divert resources to hold what would otherwise be a super-safe seat. Prospective Republican candidates want to push Cochran from running based on the old adage that the first election results occur on qualifying day. Tea Party types are for the moment backing McDaniel, but there is certainly not a groundswell of any sort from the GOP establishment that Cochran should go.

For the fun of it, we’ll play along with the PPP poll and point out a few interesting parts in the crosstabs on what it could mean if the poll has any credibility, which is still very much in doubt.

Let’s look first at the favorability for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann versus that of state Senator Chris McDaniel.

Hosemann is shown with a 58% favorability rating with 23% unsure. It shows 58% of women and men view the two-term Secretary well.

McDaniel is shown with a 33% favorability rating with 50% unsure. In that 50% unsure number, 57% are women.

Simply put, this is a result of name ID. What this means for McDaniel is millions and millions of dollars are needed to boost his appeal and recognition with voters, and even then it takes time for a name to sink in.

On the head to head matchup between McDaniel and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran if he runs, Cochran is shown topping McDaniel by just 6 points, a 44%-38% split.

That could be encouraging news to the McDaniel campaign, however, as Brian Perry tweeted out, “Special interests groups spent $500K on Chris McDaniel for Senate and now poll has him placing second in what is so far a one person race.”

McDaniel has had a good bit of TV and special interest money promoting his side of the story. However, McDaniel has never run a statewide race nor been seriously vetted as a candidate at this level. You can bet that in a competitive primary, every bit of McDaniel’s business, legal and legislative background will be pulled out and scrutinized in a way that no one has likely ever done before. Believe me, it’s already begun.

Other potential candidates that have run statewide won’t have that issue to contend with during their races.

And again, McDaniel’s appeal to women is also an issue with Cochran leading in that demographic 49%-32%.

PPP also gave respondents a choice between seven possible Republican candidates if Cochran didn’t run. The results showed:

Gregg Harper – 15%
Delbert Hosemann – 23%
Chris McDaniel – 25%
Alan Nunnelee – 8%
Steve Palazzo – 13%
Stacey Pickering – 5%
Tate Reeves – 3%
Someone else/Not sure – 8%

Let’s add a little conventional wisdom to this list and see what we come up with.

Nunnelee and Palazzo are pretty unlikely to run for U.S. Senate.

There’s another strata of potential candidates that include Reeves and Harper that are not necessarily likely candidates, but that would be strong if they ran and it would not surprise anyone if they did.

Then there are likely candidates that would run if Cochran didn’t and that group includes Hosemann and Pickering.

Assuming Cochran’s out, Hosemann and Pickering both have chips to play. Hosemann has kept a very high profile in the Secretary of State’s office and has made much political hay on Voter ID and Redistricting. Pickering made a big bet and was a major player behind the scenes and on the stump for Steven Palazzo in 2010 and has good statewide name ID along with good street cred when it comes to good governance and ensuring accountability in state government.

McDaniel’s biggest issue is that all of the groups backing him now may well stop giving if Cochran steps down. It would be unlikely in a Cochran-less race to have those conservative groups fund large buy negative ads against other prominent conservatives. In other words, McDaniel could easily place third in a three man primary race.

What’s all that mean? McDaniel has a long road ahead of him to win the nomination whether Cochran stays in or not. In fact, if Cochran stays in and the others do not run, McDaniel could make a serious race of it down the stretch by spending millions and honing a focused conservative message that both resonates with Republican primary voters and doesn’t disenfranchise the frozen chosen establishment types.

Here’s why I say that: Listen to the discussion at most dinner tables around the state these days. People do not want less conservative policies, they want more. The PPP poll actually may have gotten that one right when they asked, “…would you like the Republican candidate for Senate next year to be Thad Cochran or someone more conservative than him?” 55% said more conservative.

Take this poll and its “results” for the fun discussion it is but look a little deeper and what it says may surprise you.

The real question now is who contracted and paid for the poll, and what motivation is behind it?