For election year 2014, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel threw all into unseating a decades-old Establishment GOP incumbent in Mississippi.
McDaniel was a favored candidate not just of his candor, but for his respect for opponent Thad Cochran. McDaniel outlined his plan not to get along to go along in Washington. Frustrated with the tepid decisions of the incumbent to vote against cloture and resist pressing against US Senate Democratic dominance, McDaniel claimed that the voters needed a fighter. Following the spate of scandals spouting out of the White House, from Operation Fast and Furious to the numerous lies about ObamaCare, to the IRS and EPA abuses, along with the invasion of our privacy from the NSA and the CIA, demand immediate response and retribution from our representatives, Cochran has done nothing. McDaniel would.
Indeed, the former radio host is an articulate fighter, and we need lawmakers like him to fight back against the institutionalized fraud, deceit, and endemic arrogance of Washington DC. Unlike more prescient politicians, like minority leader Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch, Cochran did not plan for a fight, nor did he prepare for the tenacity of a challenger from the libertarian right. Cochran was going to find himself facing the fight of his political career, one which campaign aids and political king-makers took more seriously than the incumbent himself. For months, conservative groups descended into Mississippi, the reliably red state whose thirty-plus year senator had admitted privately that they Republicans could never stop Obamacare. Cochran shared support for Common Core legislation, and he touted his influence to bring in the pork for Magnolia State residents.
Therein lay a problem. When a state needs financial aid following a natural disaster, should its Senator not take the initiative to ensure that his constituents receive necessary funding? McDaniel’s common sense demand for less government should not limit the role of state as defender of the people. Still, primary challenger did not slacken his pace to win the race, nor did he have to.
McDaniel railed against Common Core and shared his outraged with the unsustainable debt of Washington. Presenting himself as an iron stalwart who would stand with US Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, the state senator from Mississippi would prove a formidable plank in a new wave of resistance to big government encroachment, whether from Democrats or Republicans.
McDaniel did so well in the June 3rd primary, that he bested the incumbent by a percentage point, but the win was not decisive enough, so Cochran and McDaniel would face off in a run-off. Tea Party supporters rallied to the former radio host’s aid, a slick young operator with a libertarian streak, one who declared his bold pastels in contrast to the fading shades of Cochran’s greying tenure.
Still, politics is a full-contact support, and incumbents, especially with four decades of experience and connections, do not give up easily. Defined by the Washington culture as well as immersed in it, Cochran and state party supporters not only increased their efforts, but they reached out to Democratic voters who had not participated in the first primary. Some operatives decry such tactics, shouting that Cochran and company played on unfounded racism smears to bring down McDaniel. The incumbent Senator also argued his support for food stamps and federal largesse, which appeal to Democratic voters.
Following the second vote at the end of June, Cochran carried the day with a slightly wider margin. McDaniel supporters cried foul, citing not just pandering with taxpayer dollars, but outright lies and voter fraud. Still, Cochran won the race, and he is the Republican nominee of Mississippi’s US Senator. What can McDaniel draw from this outcome? Should he keep fighting? He should let go of the election lawsuit. He made his case, the state party rejected it, and so have Mississippi state courts. He is not a loser for spotlighting the importance of incumbents not taking their seats for granted. He has a ground game in place which have enlarged his name ID while strengthening his outreach for the next race. Cochran’s victory has enhanced GOP outreach to black communities, proving that voter discrimination even in the Deep South is a thing of the past. McDaniel can capitalize on this subtle victory for the future, too, and prepare for another statewide run, whether as a US Senator or even as Governor.
The state senator and radio host has every right to be outraged, but he should learn from the measured examples of other Republicans, like Richard Nixon and his admired example Ronald Reagan. Running more than once for President, both men did reach the office at last. Nixon had time and opportunity to contest dubious results in his 1960 campaign, but chose not to, for the sake of the country. Reagan lost twice before getting the nomination, and the second time, in 1976, a fractured primary fight led to a contested floor vote at the Republican convention. The Establishment won in 1976, but four years later the conservative upstart finished on top.
McDaniel’s loss in 2014 can promote him to victory in years to come.