JACKSON, MISS. — Democrats were crossing their fingers that Chris McDaniel would be the Republican nominee in Mississippi.
But since Sen. Thad Cochran has prevailed, they are trying to do the unthinkable — unseat a six-term GOP senator.
McDaniel might have been the better Republican for former Rep. Travis Childers to face in November, but now Democrats are banking on Cochran’s strategy of trying to woo Democrats and blacks, which has upset tea party activists, to their advantage.
McDaniel supporters are irate that Cochran won a GOP primary by reaching across the aisle. Now some of his backers are ambivalent about whether they’ll come out at all in November — and if they don’t, that could create a rare opening for a Democrat here.
For his part, Childers said he is prepared to take on the Mississippi Republican machine and recapture the black vote that went for Cochran in the primary runoff. He also wants to take a page out of the Cochran campaign’s playbook — expand the electorate.
“Anyone who says it is an easy sail to victory for [Cochran], or anyone else, I would remind them that this seat isn’t owned by anyone but the people of the state of Mississippi,” Childers said. “There are a lot of disenfranchised Republican voters out there.”
The real question for Childers is what will those tea party activists who fervently supported McDaniel do. Frustrated by Cochran’s campaign tactic of trying to get Democrats who didn’t vote in the June 3 primary to cast a ballot in the runoff Tuesday, many McDaniel supporters at his election night head quarters furiously chanted, “We’re not going with Thad.”
Childers said he is going to be going after every eligible Mississippi voter.
“I’ve had broad support before of Republicans, independents, my message to any Mississippi voters is you are welcome in our camp,” Childers said. “We have enough seats at the table. … You don’t have to sit on the floor and you don’t have to eat crumbs.”
In part, for Childers to just run a competitive race is helpful to Democrats. By expanding the map, Childers could force Republicans to spend money in Mississippi, thus diverting it from other states as they try to gain the Senate majority. Outside Republican groups dumped millions into Mississippi in the 2014 cycle, an enormous sum compared to previous cycles.