McDaniel, meanwhile, complained that a number of Democrats —most of whom are black in Mississippi— apparently cast ballots in the GOP runoff and boosted Cochran’s numbers. McDaniel refused to concede the race and said he would probe “irregularities” in Tuesday’s voting.
“We must be absolutely certain that our Republican primary was won by Republican voters,” McDaniel said. “In the coming days, our team will look into the irregularities to determine whether a challenge is warranted.”
His insistence that Democrats voting in his party’s primary was a bad thing made some mainstream Republicans cringe— and express relief that Cochran, a six-term senator and former Appropriations Committee chairman, is now the heavy favorite to win re-election over Democrat Travis Childers this fall.
“I’m for more people voting, not less people voting,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told reporters in the Capitol in Washington.
Cochran’s victory, they said, allows the GOP to continue its push to win a Senate majority in November without worrying whether McDaniel, a 41-year-old state senator, will join Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in a conservative faction that often frustrates operations of the Senate.
Also, McDaniel might have put the seat in jeopardy in November, said Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran.
“I believe that either Sen. Cochran or Sen. McDaniel would have won in November, but there’s a widespread belief that Sen. Cochran’s path is much clearer,” said Moran, chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign committee.
“It’s a good day for Republicans and good news for anyone who wants a Republican majority that is similar in mindset to the current Republican minority,” said GOP strategist Tom Ingram, a top adviser to Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Alexander’s August primary is the next face-off between a sitting Republican senator and a challenger from the right.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee noted that Cochran’s victory came the same day that Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford won the GOP Senate nomination over a tea party candidate in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Coburn.
“I know there had been some concern about some of the stereotypes that could be generated with certain nominees,” Corker said. “I don’t know if any of that is valid or invalid.” Referring to Cochran and Lankford, he said, “What I do know is that with those two, that certainly will not be an issue.”
Henry Barbour, who ran a pro-Cochran Super PAC, said voters rewarded Cochran for showing that “you still have to govern” even as you “defend your principles.”…
…In Washington, Republicans dismissed McDaniel’s criticism of Cochran’s strategy and found themselves hoping openly for more black votes in the future, though the party has insisted in Mississippi and elsewhere on voter ID laws that some African-Americans criticize as modern poll taxes.
The lone Democrat in Mississippi’s congressional delegation, meanwhile, said McDaniel should blame himself if he’s upset about black voters affecting a GOP primary.
“When you talk about government not having an obligation to its citizens and you use code words like ‘they have lived off the government too long,'” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, “to the average black Mississippian, those code words bring up too much of the past.
“And I just think that McDaniel did as much for the Cochran turnout in the black community as the Cochran people did,” said Thompson, who is black.