Mississippi Democrats haven’t had this much fun in a long time: sitting on the sideline and watching state Republicans engage in vicious trench warfare within their ranks. On second thought, its not fun to watch.
Never before in seven decades I’ve covered and commented on players who occupy the state political stage have I seen one candidate’s backers stoop so low seeking advantage against an adversary. Of course what I’m talking about is the photo scandal involving a supporter for a Tea Party challenger, Chris McDaniel, seeking to unseat senior U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in Tuesday’s Republican Primary.
Republicans have been noted for dirty tricks in election campaigns – normally against Democrats – so what makes this case so unusual is that it is intramural. Actually it is much more than a dirty trick, it’s a vicious, heartless invasion of the privacy of Cochran’s permanently bed-ridden wife in a nursing home.
Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, a pro-McDaniel blogger who snapped the photo, then posted it online, has been charged on several criminal counts and is held in jail. Not jailed but also charged are three other McDaniel supporters (and Tea Partiers) with links to the sordid photo episode.
McDaniel is a state senator from Jones County known around the Legislature as an ego-driven lawmaker who operates outside the chamber’s Republican leadership.
Though he disclaims any connection to the photo scandal, enough of the mud it has dredged up has stuck to him as to cost him votes and win sympathy for the 76-year-old Cochran. The 42-year-old McDaniel has even sought to turn around the blame for the affair by accusing the Cochran camp of “shameful slander” and withholding knowledge of the video from authorities for several weeks after being tipped off of its existence.