And there’s an even uglier undercurrent to all of this, centered around the fact that Cochran specifically reached out not just to Democratic voters, but to black voters (and in deeply polarized Mississippi, the Venn diagram of those two groups is almost a circle). With radio, phone calls and mail, Cochran made the case in Mississippi’s most heavily black counties that they should come out in the runoff to ensure that it would be Cochran, not McDaniel, as the GOP nominee in this very red state.
And it worked. Cochran’s biggest gains came in heavily black counties around Jackson and the Delta region, and turnout actually increased from the primary to the runoff. “They targeted voters outside the universe of likely voters in a Republican primary,” writes David Jarman, “that meant explicitly trying to make inroads among African-American voters…it seemed like a Hail Mary at the time … but looking at Tuesday night’s election results, it very clearly worked.”
The outrage among McDaniel voters goes beyond just sore-loserdom. Right-wingers’ assertion that Cochran’s votes were “invalid” tie into long-standing issues around black citizenship and black participation. You can see it in the hysteria over “vote fraud” in elections and even in the demands to see President Obama’s “long-form” birth certificate. You can see it in some McDaniel supporters’ insistence that black votes must have been bought, or “harvested…like cotton,” as a McDaniel supporter said on a Cochran campaign conference call. And the less said about Rush Limbaugh’s response, the better.