They are so desperate to preserve their hold on power against the increasingly extreme push to the right of their base, they had to do something in Mississippi that would have been unthinkable not so long ago—the GOP chiefs went begging to liberal Democrats (many of them black voters who never vote Republican) to save the political career of US Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS).
Just a few weeks ago, Cochran had been forced into a Republican primary runoff with Tea Party upstart, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel, whose quick rise from relative political obscurity is similar to a number of stories of basically unvetted Tea Party candidates—including Dave Brat, who defeated the Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, back on June 10, 2014.
Most observers and pundits felt Cochran was behind and likely to lose to McDaniel in the runoff on Tuesday. The RCP poll average showed McDaniel leading with an poll average of 6.3 points. Unless Cochran could improve his turnout, including making an appeal to Democrats to crossover vote in the Republican Primary (allowed under Mississippi election laws), his cause seemed lost.
The GOP establishment, in Mississippi and in Washington DC, concluded there was only one way to save Cochran—toss conservative principles in the trash and go left—way left. The GOP began making appeals to liberal Democratic voters—people the GOP usually ignores like the plague. Republican establishment ads attacked McDaniel for being opposed to welfare benefits like SNAP (or food stamps), while portraying Cochran as the politician Mississippians have relied on, and could rely on in the future, to bring home billions of dollars in federal pork to the state.
The Cochran approach worked, as the Clarion Ledger pointed out, mainly because, while both candidates increased their turnout from the primary election, in the runoff vote, Cochran was able to expand his base of voters, for example participation in many black voting districts in Mississippi shot up dramatically for the GOP runoff, with the votes mainly going to Cochran.
Still, the final vote was very close, and clearly Cochran won, by a few thousand votes, because of support by Democrats, not Republicans.
The fallout from that fact is making much worse the already serious divisions in the GOP.
Party establishment defender, Joe Scarborough, host of the MSNBC show Morning Joe, said it plain and simple today to McDaniel (who is refusing to concede) and his Tea Party supporters:
"I can just tell you if these people were my children, I would be laughing at them, calling them the biggest whiners—they cheated—no [Cochran's team] didn't cheat. They followed the rules. They followed the law. You lost! When you lose, you lose because you're too stupid to figure out how to use tactics to adjust...McDaniel was running. Tea Party race in an open primary. THAT is stupid! And if you were too stupid to win an election, don't whine about it the next day and say the other side cheated."Countering that view was the opinion offered by Red State's Erick Erickson, who is so shocked and disturbed by what happened in Mississippi on Tuesday, that he all but called for a general revolt of the Tea Party, and for Republicans to "sacrifice" Mississippi's Senate seat to the Demcrats, by having Tea Party Republicans vote in the fall for Travis Childers, the Democratic opponent of Cochran.
Erickson was not quite able to make this recommendation (either out of discretion or cowardice) but he said he would understand if Mississippi Tea Partiers were to hit back at the GOP by voting Democratic:
"I won’t join you. [i.e., in supporting Democrat Childers] But I understand. If the GOP is allowed to get away with how they won in Mississippi, they will never really practice what they preach when it comes to limited government. There must be some consequence. I am just not sure what it should be. But I’m pretty damn sure it shouldn’t be that the base is treated as the battered wife of the Establishment."The Republican Party should be in the final stages of plotting its takeover of the U.S. Senate from Harry Reid and the Democrats. But, instead, the GOP looks increasingly like Iraq, rather than a stable political party.
The question now is whether the betrayal felt by so many voters in the GOP base will translate into a war against the establishment that will see the Republican Party start to suffer a decline in Congress and in the states to mirror that already being experienced by the hapless and horrible Republican presidential candidates.
Democrats have to be smiling.