What Will Be the Thad Cochran Signal?

What Will Be the Thad Cochran Signal?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

What Will Be the Thad Cochran Signal?

Republicans throughout the country–as well as Democrats– are watching for the results in the Mississippi Senate run-off today. Six-term, Republican Senator Thad Cochran is running for another term against a Tea Party supported Mississippi State Senator, Chris McDaniel. This race, like Eric Cantor’s race in Virginia, will not be decided by money. Both sides have been heavily financed to enable them to get their message out.  For the first time in his life probably, Cochran is being viewed and labelled as a moderate.

Curiously for Mississippi the Republican contest may actually be decided by Democrats and especially African American, who are permitted to cross-over and vote in the Republican primary. In fact, Mississippi Tea Partyers are actually so concerned about voter turn-out and proper vote counting that they have played extra attention to having their own poll watchers in precincts around the State.

The results in this contest are critical and will be consequential for both factions of the GOP. Should the traditionalist Cochran win the mainstream wing of the party may be able to use his victory to counter the Cantor loss and to continue its efforts to reduce the negativism which many believe the Tea Partyers are causing to the Republican efforts to retake the Senate this fall. It also would permit the Republicans to continue to move to the right, oppose the President, but without the negative label many believe the Tea Party wing brands the Party.

On the other side, a McDaniel victory could impact numerous House and Senate races throughout the country where Tea Party candidates are watching carefully as they prepare for the long summer-fall campaign season. While these aspirants are confident in being well financed, many of them are alert to the fact that they well might be losing the sheen that earlier seemed to be growing in many Republican circles. To sustain their campaigns’ energy and to continue to attract independents, they need to be seen as the true future of the Republican Party. If they appear to be just another wild and extreme faction, the Tea Party might well disrupt the Republican plans for a Senate take-over in November and the Tea Party may be over.

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