Thad Cochran’s allies are working hard to turn out Democratic voters ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election in Mississippi, but Cochran himself says he doesn’t “know anything about that.”
“Haven’t heard that, don’t know,” Cochran told Jackson’s WAPT News.
Throughout the bitter primary race, Cochran has sought to deflect attacks that he is disengaged from his state — his opponent, state senator Chris McDaniel, charged that he lives mostly in Washington, D.C. — and from his campaign. His latest remarks will do little to quell those concerns, lending the impression that the 76-year-old senator is but a figurehead in a campaign orchestrated by his powerful backers, including former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour and his nephews, Henry and Austin.
Almost immediately after the primary election was thrown into a runoff, Cochran’s allies said they would seek to turn out Democrats in the June 24 runoff as a means of combating the historically low turnout of runoff elections and the enthusiasm among voters for his tea-party opponent. That news made the New York Times, Politico, and my own report on NRO. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger carries a report today indicating that the strategy may be paying off: At least one Democratic political operative is organizing a get-out-the-vote effort on Cochran’s behalf.
Cochran himself even discussed the strategy with the same news network on June 9. Asked whether he’d like Democrats to vote for him, he responded, “My arms are open and welcoming and we hope that they would join our campaign and go vote on election day or by absentee ballot…We need a big turnout.”
This isn’t the first time Cochran has seemingly been caught flat-footed. When a Fox News reporter asked him to respond to Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat, he gave a similar response, saying he hadn’t followed the race.
The hard-fought campaign now heads into its closing days and, aside from wooing Democrats, the Cochran campaign is continuing to make the case that McDaniel, a former radio talk-show host, is a fast-talking politician with unsavory associations who will embarrass Republicans on the national stage. They are running ads featuring McDaniel, on his radio show, referring to Mexican women as “mamacitas” and spreading word that one of his donors was the friend of a deceased KKK leader.
The mudslinging comes to an end on Tuesday.