Tuesday night, Republican Sen. Thad Cochran defied the polls and defeated tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Senate primary runoff by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. Cochran couldn’t have done it without expanding the pool of voters, and in the last three weeks he did just that.
We know turnout was higher in the runoff than it was in the initial primary. About 375,000 voters showed up Tuesday compared with 318,904 on June 3, an increase of more than 17 percent. Cochran raised his vote total by more than 38,000 votes, while McDaniel pulled in only an additional 30,000. That was more than enough to erase McDaniel’s 1,386 vote lead in the first round.
Cochran’s campaign explicitly tried to increase his turnout in the runoff by bringing Democratic-leaning African-Americans to the polls. Mississippi primaries are open, so all voters were welcome on Tuesday so long as they hadn’t voted in the Democratic primary three weeks ago. But does that effort explain Cochran’s success? It’s still too early — after the vote and in the morning — to definitively answer this question. We’ll need to look at the profiles of the individual voters, post-election surveys and precinct-level data. Until then, we have county-level results to go on, and that data suggests that traditionally Democratic voters provided Cochran with his margin of victory.
It is illegal for a voter in Mississippi to vote in a primary if they don’t intend to vote for that party’s nominee in the general.
I’ll hazard a guess that, oh, none of the blacks who voted for Cochran in the GOP primary intend to, or will, vote for him in the general. They’ll either stay home, or vote for the Democrat.
If I were a Republican in Mississippi, I’d vote for the Democrat, too, just to punish the Gentry GOP for this sort of skulduggery. Is suborning illegal voting a crime? If not, it should be. And if it is, everybody from Haley Barbour on down should be facing jail time.