Tags: Chris McDaniel

Republicans Have to Stand for More Than ‘Just Win, Baby.’


The first new Morning Jolt in a week is packed to the gills with news — but a key section looks at the fallout from last week’s Mississippi GOP Senate primary runoff: 

The Steep, Steep Price of Thad Cochran’s Victory in Mississippi

The Republican Party has to stand for more than “just win, baby.”

If you’re a Republican who went all out for Thad Cochran’s win last week, I hope you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and asking yourself whether Cochran’s victory was worth it. Because the price looks awfully steep – i.e., having a Republican candidate denounce the conservative positions of his opponent and a big chunk of the grassroots.

Great, a 76-year-old who wanted to retire is now a favorite to return for a seventh term. Look, I get it, Chris McDaniel had more rough edges than sandpaper origami, and yes, there was always the likelihood that the Democrats would attempt to turn him into the Todd Akin of this cycle. But anytime a Republican tries to beat another Republican by adopting the rhetoric of the Democrats, they’re playing with fire.

Was Thad Cochran’s victory worth having a Republican explicitly running on the glory of earmarks and the value of large federal spending projects in the state? Why not just hold up a giant flashing neon sign saying “WE DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT”?

Was it worth running radio ads declaring, “By not voting, you’re saying, ‘Take away all of my government programs, such as food stamps, early breakfast and lunch programs, millions of dollars to our black universities”?

Was Cochran’s victory worth a flyer like this one, contending that the Tea Party is racist?

Yes, yes, the Cochran backers will insist they themselves had nothing to do with those radio ads or flyers. They just happened to benefit from messaging that demonized the positions of the grassroots.

Once a Republican candidate is running on those messages…how many differences with the Democrats are left? “Hi, I’m the candidate of bringing home the bacon and higher spending, and I think the Tea Party is racist. But I’m completely different from the Democrat, I swear!”

When a candidate campaigns on limited government and other conservative positions, he’s making a sales pitch for policy positions and a philosophy that some other candidate can run on in the future. When a candidate campaigns on his spot on the Appropriations Committee, and his seniority, and his long history of bringing back federal funding for state projects, he’s making a sales pitch that is completely non-transferrable to any other candidate, now or later. Next time around, some Democrat – some liberal Democrat! – will be able to make the plausible case that they’ll bring back more pork than the other guy. The arguments of the Cochran campaign helped their man – and by contending this is the proper criteria for electing senators, they’re also helping some populist Democrat in a couple of years.

Is this is the new strategy for Republicans? Abandon any pretense of being the party of limited government in an effort to win over the Democratic base?

Consider Ronny Barrett, a 56-year-old mechanic from Jackson and a black Democrat who voted for Cochran on June 3 and again Tuesday.

“Sen. Cochran has done a lot of things for the black community, and a lot of people in the black community know that,” Barrett said at Cochran’s victory party. “First time in my life I voted Republican. … I think I’ll vote Republican again.”

Because Mississippi voters don’t register by party, it’s impossible to know exactly how many Democrats or independents voted for Cochran. But turnout increased by almost 70,000 votes over the June 3 turnout, and Cochran improved his vote totals substantially in several key counties, including about 7,000 additional votes in Hinds, the seat of state government; more than 1,000 in Harrison and more than 1,200 in Jackson, both coastal counties.

The good news is that Ronny Barrett voted Republican and may vote Republican again. The bad news is that it doesn’t appear that the Cochran campaign made much of an argument to Barrett and other Democratic-leaning African-American voters other than, “I’ll bring home the federal spending that matters to you.”

A few Cochran backers are insisting this is a triumph of GOP outreach to minorities. But the methods of Cochran’s campaign aren’t transferrable to candidates who aren’t veteran porkmeister Appropriations Committee members. And what good is this method? Denounce your base and promise to give the other party’s base what they want? You might as well switch parties. Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist did.

Now Cochran’s new allies expect him to oppose efforts at voter ID:

NAACP Mississippi State President Derrick Johnson said in an interview that they are looking for Cochran’s support.

“Two things that we think should come immediately after the election [are] his support of the Voting Rights act… free of any provisions that would allow for voter ID and, second, to get the presidents of the black colleges to ask for his offices for help to make sure the mission of those institutions are carried out,” he said.

We can find all this frustrating, but not surprising. From the February 11 Morning Jolt:

McDaniel says he’s willing to draw a hard line on pork, but that’s another issue that seems to be more appealing in the abstract than when actual projects, jobs, and dollars are at stake. Bringing home federal spending hasn’t hurt Cochran in any of his previous six Senate campaigns, nor was it much of an issue for, say, former Mississippi senator Trent Lott. 

The “Just win, baby” motto is attributed to the late Al Davis, owner of the Oakland (and briefly Los Angeles) Raiders. Davis’ approach did work quite well for a while… and then from 1990 to 2010, they had seven seasons above .500. 

Tags: Thad Cochran , GOP , Chris McDaniel , Conservatism

Bennie Thompson Explains How Thad Cochran Can Reward Black Voters


Senator Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) needs to reward the black voters who crossed party lines to support him in his runoff against tea party challenger Chris McDaniel by backing some concrete policy initiatives, according the the state’s only member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“We have historically black colleges in our state who do the best job they can trying to educate our citizens,” Representative Bennie G. Thompson told National Review Online during a Wednesday interview at the Capitol. ”I’d like to see efforts that they receive full funding. I’d like to see the health care of our citizens improved; our children die too young. I’d like to see an increased effort to make sure that the minority unemployment rate inn our state is reduced. So, there are a lot of opportunities for us to start with.”

Thompson said that it wasn’t difficult for Cochran to rally black voters against McDaniel. “I don’t know anybody black who likes the Tea Party. So, if a tea-party person is running against another Republican and you ask a black person, they’re going to support the regular Republican,” he said. “Their platform is counter to a lot of the beliefs of many African Americans. We think there is a place in government to make the lives of its citizens better; that there is a place in government to make sure that education, health care, and other things are available to all citizens. So, that’s a reasonable expectation of government. But this ‘limited government’ and other things that you hear from a lot of tea-party candidates does not resonate well with the black community.”

Tags: Thad Cochran , Chris McDaniel , Tea Party

Ted Cruz Compares Republican Senator In Mississippi to Eric Cantor


House majority leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in the Virginia Republican primary inspired Senator Ted Cruz to tout the tea-party challenger to Senator Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), although Cruz still officially followed the unwritten rule about refusing to endorse challengers to incumbent senators of his own party.

“You look at the results of last night. Dave Brat was outspent 50 to 1, and yet the people woke up and said we’re tired of business as usual in Washington,” Cruz told Glenn Beck, who has been boosting state senator Chris McDaniel’s challenge to Cochran, during a Wednesday-morning radio interview. ”You look at the results in Mississippi, where the fourth longest-serving member of the Senate has suddenly found himself in a runoff because Chris McDaniel is running a strong grassroots campaign. How does Washington respond? By heaping lies and personal attacks, and trying to attack any candidate who takes on the Washington status quo.”

That wasn’t a slip of the tongue, either. ”You asked what we can do,” Cruz continued, in what Mississippi voters might regard as a not-so-subtle hint. “The biggest thing we can do is rise up and demand that our elected officials in both parties listen to the people, and that we hold every elected official accountable, and I think 2014 is going to be a very strong election year, but I think 2016 is going to be even stronger, because sometimes things have to get really bad to startle people out of their slumber, to wake them up and say it’s now or never. We either stand up now or we will lose the greatest country in the history of the world.”

Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah), an ally of Cruz’s in the Senate, advised McDaniel’s campaign down the stretch of the primary, although his staff said they would have given Cochran the same advice if he had asked for it. “The advice was always consistent that people are looking to vote for someone,” spokesman Brian Phillips told NRO. “In this primary, you’re not going to get over 50 percent by just slamming the other guy and getting people to vote against the other guy; that at some point there is going to be a significant number of independents and undecideds who are going to be looking to vote for someone. And that’s true, I think, in any primary. And we had given the advice that we think the agenda is the thing that people will vote for. And so, if you’re looking to move numbers of undecideds and independents, the agenda shows the way, and so that was the advice that we gave, and that’s the advice we would give to anybody.”

Tags: Ted Cruz , Mike Lee , Thad Cochran , Chris McDaniel , Eric Cantor

Sen. Mike Lee Advises Tea-Party Challenger to Sen. Thad Cochran


Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) doesn’t endorse against incumbent Republican senators, but he’s got a policy of advising candidates who ask for his input that allowed him to affect one of the highest-profile fights between the Tea Party and the establishment without taking an official stand against Senator Thad Cochran (R., Miss.).

“Chris McDaniel came in several months ago and met with Senator Lee and talked to him about the campaign,” Lee spokesman Brian Phillips told National Review Online, describing the conversation as a routine meeting in which Lee explained that he doesn’t endorse against fellow Republican senators.

“At the same time, Senator Lee offered him the same advice that he gives to all candidates, which is that the electorate is looking for policy specifics, particularly in the Republican party,” Phillips said. “And where we have contested primaries, the difference is going to be candidates who can outline a conservative policy vision for what they want to do whenever they become a senator or a congressman.”

BuzzFeed reported that the tea-party leaders in the Senate were “keeping their distance” from McDaniel due to a scandal involving a tea-party supporter who was arrested on charges of photographing Cochran’s bedridden wife in her nursing home bed, but that’s actually when Lee became most useful to McDaniel. When the Mississippi state senator’s campaign circled back for more information about the policies that Lee has advocated as part of a conservative reform agenda, Lee provided it and advised McDaniel to go positive rather than become mired in an increasingly negative campaign.

“The advice was always consistent that people are looking to vote for someone,” Phillips said. “In this primary, you’re not going to get over 50 percent by just slamming the other guy and getting people to vote against the other guy; that at some point there is going to be a significant number of independents and undecideds who are going to be looking to vote for someone. And that’s true, I think, in any primary. And we had given the advice that we think the agenda is the thing that people will vote for. And so, if you’re looking to move numbers of undecideds and independents, the agenda shows the way, and so that was the advice that we gave, and that’s the advice we would give to anybody.”

Phillips noted that Lee gave information on the conservative reform agenda to every candidate who requested it in the race to replace retiring congressman Spencer Bachus, (R., Ala.), even though he endorsed one candidate in particular in that race.

McDaniel has picked up on the ideas, but Cochran hasn’t asked Lee about the platform or for campaign advice. “Not for advice — he’s asked for money,” according to Phillips. “Senator Lee has not contributed to McDaniel or Senator Cochran.” McDaniel held a press conference in the middle of May touting the “grand-scale reforms” offered by Lee, as the Jackson Clarion-Ledger noted at the time.

Lee has been popular with the conservative base of the Republican party since he provided the Tea Party with their first upset of an incumbent senator in 2010. That credibility increased during the government-shutdown fight as Lee and Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) led an effort to defund Obamacare. Rather than use that appeal as a springboard to a presidential campaign, though, Lee has been trying to take a leading role in developing a legislative agenda for Republicans. He regards selling his platform to candidates as a key part of turning that conservative reform agenda into an effective Republican party platform, along with getting incumbent lawmakers and intellectual leaders on board with the ideas.

“It is certainly a huge opportunity for us if we are able to convince candidates to use this message and then go out and win elections using this message,” Phillips said. When NR’s Eliana Johnson wrote about Lee’s “shadow party,” she noted that “the Utah senator is the chief proselytizer of [the conservative reform agenda], but if he has his way, he’ll have more colleagues in the Senate following his lead, and perhaps even the Republican nominee come 2016.”

Tags: Mike Lee , Chris McDaniel , 2014 Midterms

Looking Ahead to Today’s Actually Thrilling Primary Battles


It’s quite possible the Mississippi GOP Senate primary will go on for another three weeks. If neither incumbent senator Thad Cochran nor challenger Chris McDaniel gets 50 percent tonight, they’ll advance to a runoff. There’s a third candidate on the ballot, Thomas Carey, and none of the four most recent polls put either man at 50 percent. Hope you can stand another three weeks of mudslinging, Mississippians!

In Iowa, Joni Ernst is the clear frontrunner in the GOP Senate primary, but she may not quite clear the threshold required to end the primary. In that state, a candidate must receive at least 35 percent of the vote in the primary to win the nomination. If no candidate receives 35 percent in the primary, the nominee is chosen by the state convention of the party. She’s been polling right around that level; with her rivals Mark Jacobs, Sam Clovis, and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker significantly behind, would the state convention select any of the other candidates?

In California, Jerry Brown is looking like a safe bet for reelection in the governor’s race, but there’s a giant contrast in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Neel Kashkari, an assistant decretary in the treasury department of the George W. Bush administration, vs. state assemblyman Tim Donnelly. One’s a child of immigrants, solar-car-builder, MBA Wharton, lots of connections in Silicon Valley . . . 

. . . and the other is different:

A senior California Republican on Thursday angrily denounced fellow GOP member Tim Donnelly’s attempts to link gubernatorial rival Neel Kashkari to fundamentalist Islamic law.

“There is no place in any public discussion for this type of hateful and ignorant garbage,” Rep. Darrell Issa said in a statement. “As far as I’m concerned, this type of stupidity disqualifies Tim Donnelly from being fit to hold any office, anywhere. Donnelly is no longer a viable option for California voters.”

On Facebook and Twitter this week, Donnelly, an assemblyman from San Bernardino County who announced his candidacy for governor last year, said Kashkari — also a Republican — condoned the strictures of sharia law because he once participated in a U.S. Treasury conference about Islamic finance.

Tags: Thad Cochran , Chris McDaniel

Will Chris McDaniel Be the Tea Party’s Next Favorite Primary Challenger?


Today’s Morning Jolt should keep the howls of RINO-ism at bay. Senator Pat Roberts gets raked over the coals for not answering basic questions, a new round of problems for Obamacare, and then this introduction to the conservative challenger in Mississippi’s Senate race . . . 

Will Chris McDaniel Be the Tea Party’s Next Favorite Primary Challenger?

Meet state senator Chris McDaniel, Republican candidate for Senate in Mississippi.

McDaniel’s secret weapon: his extra pair of arms, visible underneath the glass table.

Two obstacles stand between McDaniel and his goal of taking the oath of office in January next year.

The first is six-term Republican incumbent senator Thad Cochran.

The second is the electoral speed bump commonly referred to as the Mississippi Democratic party.  Mississippi is so conservative that the Democratic option in the Senate race, Bill Marcy, ran as a Republican in 2010 and 2012, emphasizes how conservative he is, and pitches himself as “Plan B” if McDaniel doesn’t win the primary. (Marcy is the longest of longshots, but his bid raises the interesting question of how the press would treat a conservative, former-Republican black Democratic senator.)

If Matt Bevin wasn’t taking on Mitch McConnell, the Mississippi Senate race might be seen as the premier grassroots-outsider-vs.-establishment-incumbent primary fight of the cycle. (Kentucky holds its Senate primary May 20, and Mississippi holds its June 3, so McDaniel could get a big burst of national tea-party enthusiasm and energy in the final weeks.)

Cochran was considered a potential retirement this cycle. The URL for his 2008 reelection campaign web site,, doesn’t appear to be up and running yet, nor has the campaign YouTube page been updated in five years. (UPDATE: See below.)  He’s 76 and has spent 40 years in Congress when you throw in his years in the U.S. House. He hasn’t given conservatives a ton to gripe about on the biggest issues and doesn’t fit the usual “RINO squish” labels. His lifetime ACU rating is 79, which isn’t bad, but . . . it’s Mississippi.

Cochran first joined the Appropriations Committee in 1981, was chairman from 2005 to 2007, and tends to vote like a senior appropriator, which is to say sort of like a king but with more authority to spend money. He’s currently ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and thus had a hand in the recent $956 billion farm bill, which expanded crop-insurance subsidies, creates new programs, includes no means-testing, and was described as “a bill of, by and for the agriculture lobby.” Cochran voted against Obamacare, but once the law was enacted, sought funding for a project in his state from a grant program authorized by the president’s signature domestic legislation. Back in 2010, Citizens Against Government Waste crowned him the “King of Pork,” accusing him of running up $490 million in earmarks.

Cochran was the first Republican to endorse President Obama’s selection of Chuck Hagel to be his Secretary of Defense.

McDaniel was elected to Mississippi’s state senate in 1998. He was a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Charles W. Pickering, Sr., and is a partner at the Hortman Harlow firm. He’s backed by the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and other aligned groups.

Asked directly if he would support Mitch McConnell as leader of the Republicans in the Senate, McDaniel gives a direct answer: “No.”

The polling generally shows a close race. PPP put Cochran up, 44 percent to 38 percent in November; Gravis Marketing put both men at 40 percent in early December; Harper Polling put Cochran up 54 percent to 31 percent a week later.

The fundraising is reasonably close, particularly for a relatively inexpensive state like this one; Cochran had $1.1 million on hand at the end of the year, McDaniel had about $390,000. In a recent chat with some National Review editors, the challenger declared that everyone who attends a fundraiser of his rival is there “because they have something to gain. Everybody at our events just says, ‘go back to the Constitution.’”

A couple of cautionary notes about the challenger: The good news is, Chris McDaniel sounds like an enthusiastic supporter of bold entitlement reform. The bad news is . . . Chris McDaniel sounds like an enthusiastic supporter of bold entitlement reform. This is one of those ideas that Republican primary voters like in theory but may get gun-shy about after the airwaves are filled with commercials depicting a reformer throwing an old lady off a cliff.

McDaniel says that regarding the debt ceiling, he wants to see Republicans force the president to make a serious concession in exchange for raising the ceiling again – “immediate, across-the-board spending cuts, including entitlements.” It would indeed be nice to see President Obama agreeing to that. It would also be nice to see health researchers declaring that pizza and ice cream are healthy for you, but neither of those developments is likely to happen.

Also, McDaniel says he’s willing to draw a hard line on pork, but that’s another issue that seems to be more appealing in the abstract than when actual projects, jobs, and dollars are at stake. Bringing home federal spending hasn’t hurt Cochran in any of his previous six Senate campaigns, nor was it much of an issue for, say, former Mississippi senator Trent Lott. 

UPDATE: Thad Cochran’s campaign has a website! It is

Tags: Chris McDaniel , Thad Cochran

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