You have to hand it to the GOP establishment. When their interests are threatened, they pull out all the stops. They demonstrated that in dragging GOP senator Thad Cochran across the finish line in tonight’s runoff in Mississippi.
Imagine if a tea-party candidate in some state had openly appealed to registered Libertarians to help him win a close primary runoff. There would have been howls of outrage that people who didn’t agree with Republican values on social issues and foreign policy were being invited to decide a GOP race. Well, Thad Cochran’s allies performed a version of that ploy tonight by openly encouraging liberal Democrats to vote in the primary. Turnout was up by some 15 percent from the June 3 contest between Cochran and Chris McDaniel. The New York Times reported that “turnout increased by 92 percent in Jefferson County, the county where black voters represent the largest share of eligible voters in the country.”
Thad Cochran will continue in the Senate only because the GOP establishment used “walking around” money to drum up minority liberal voters for Cochran. In Mississippi, despite an unenforceable law saying that only voters intending to vote Republican can participate in GOP primaries, there was nothing preventing that kind of primary manipulation.
Establishment players will justify their tactics by claiming that all is fair in politics. Austin Barbour, a relative of former governor Haley Barbour, even went so far as to claim of the Cochran campaign: “We’ve spent a lot of time bringing a conservative message to black voters, as well as to white voters, the old and young, men and women.” Actually, the message was the antithesis of conservatism — that only an aging 76-year-old incumbent can bring home pork-barrel projects that largely benefit a business elite while the state’s voters are saddled with more federal debt.