Thad Cochran’s Conservative-Voter Problem

by Michael J. New

This week Rasmussen released a poll on the Mississippi U.S. Senate race. At first glance, the results are unsurprising. The results indicate that likely Republican nominee Thad Cochran has a fairly comfortable 46-34 edge over Democrat Travis Childers.  However, a closer look at the results indicates that Cochran is faring less well than expected with conservative voters in Mississippi. Indeed, the Cochran campaign’s decision to use liberal campaign themes to attract Democratic and minority voters during the runoff appears to have hurt his standing with Mississippi conservatives.

The Rasmussen poll finds that only 50 percent of voters who have a favorable view of the tea party are supporting Senator Cochran. Twenty-three percent of these voters said they would support another candidate besides Senator Cochran and Travis Childers and 8 percent were undecided. Additionally, only 58 percent of self-described conservatives said that they would support Senator Cochran — a low figure for a Republican candidate. Among conservatives, 15 percent said they would support someone other than the two major-party nominees. Nine percent said they were undecided.

In the weeks leading up to the Mississippi Senate primary, countless pundits said that Thad Cochran was a more electable statewide candidate than Chris McDaniel. That said, the Cochran campaign’s decision to emphasize pork and use liberal themes to woo Democrats has reduced Senator Cochran’s appeal among Mississippi conservatives. It remains to be seen if Democrats are willing to invest significant resources in Childers’s campaign, but due to Senator Cochran’s tactics during the runoff, this election may be more competitive than many expected.

— Michael New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan – Dearborn and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.