U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is having a few bad days.
It started earlier this month with questions about Cochran’s residency. Cochran rents an apartment from one of his long-time staffers, Kay Webber. That’s the address he lists on most documents, and GOP primary challenger Chris McDaniel and his tea party supporters have sought to make hay out of this.
Cochran also owns a cabin in Oxford, which the senator says is his primary residence. He also is registered to vote in Mississippi. Something that has not been not been pointed out is that Cochran has a better voting record in GOP primaries and general elections than does McDaniel, who has been criticized for voting in a Democratic primary and not voting in a presidential year general election.
But the residency attack was pretty minor. First off, questioning someone’s residency is generally a losing proposition. There laws are vague at best when it comes to residency issues. You can question whether or not someone is in the district enough, but proving they don’t meet residency requirements is nearly impossible.
Now comes questions about Cochran’s travel with the same staffer from whom he rents an apartment. Webber, who serves as an executive assistant to the senator, has traveled overseas with the senator on at least 33 trips in 12 years. She has also traveled with him to and from the state numerous times. According to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and current U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, having key aides travel with you repeatedly is nothing out of the ordinary. Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell calls the questions about her travel “sexist,” saying that if Webber was a male staffer no one would question the travel.
That’s likely true, though some people believe that the taxpayer money spent funding the travel is wasteful. However, according to Senate records and Senate rules, the funds used are within the budgeted amounts for either the senator’s office or the Senate committee sponsoring the trip. In other words, nothing illegal or unethical with the expenditures.
At the end of the day, these are nagging issues. They’re not insignificant, but they also don’t rise to the level of running the Cochran campaign off the tracks. It will slow their momentum, which is exactly what McDaniel and his allies need. Based on rumblings from both camps, the gaps in poll numbers are starting to widen. To close that gap, McDaniel needs some momentum of his own, but slowing Cochran’s pace certainly doesn’t hurt.