Old-School Appropriator Navigates New Spending Waters

Cochran practices a brand of politics that has gone out of style in recent years. Quiet and courteous, with a patrician air, he prefers to refrain from the fiery floor speeches demonizing his opponents that have become the norm with his junior and generally more populist colleagues.

“I try to let my real personality show. I don’t try to put on an act or perform a role just to be part of the process for the cameras and that kind of thing,” says Cochran. “I’m trying to get results that reflect good government.”

It’s a style that some of his critics refer to as detached and even checked-out. Media reports from his rocky re-election campaign last year paint the picture of a man whose lack of energy could make it difficult to further recharge the appropriations process.

But the people who know Cochran well say it’s critical not to confuse his reserved personality for disengagement.

“The weight of Thad’s words are directly proportional to how few he uses,” says Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia. “He’s like E.F. Hutton and everybody listens.”

Former Cochran aides say he is a smart and staff-driven leader, more transactional than wonky policy type, but just as effective.