Michael Gaynor
Will the current "Mississippi Madness" sink Mitch Mcconnell?
By Michael Gaynor
August 6, 2014

Maybe Cochran defied the odds and really won the runoff after coming in second the first time, but it seems likely that there were even more illegal and questionable votes than McDaniel claims and significantly possible that McConnell will pay the price for the perception that McDaniel didn't get a fair shake.

The Daily Beast'
s Ben Jacobs asked a key question: "Will Tea Partiers Sink Mitch McConnell's Kentucky Senate Reelection Bid?" (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/04/will-tea-partiers-sink-mitch-mcconnell-s-kentucky-senate-reelection-bid.html).

The answer may depend upon what happens in Mississippi.

Jacobs wrote:

"The Senate minority leader, long reviled among many on the right for what they see as kowtowing to Democrats, is in a tough race for his seat – and in trouble with the Tea Party.

"If Alison Lundergan Grimes pulls off an upset victory over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in November, she may have Tea Partiers to thank. But don't expect conservative voters to rally to Grimes – they simply aren't getting behind McConnell."

If Tea Partiers think that Chris McDaniel rightfully won the Mississippi Republican United States Senate primary and the GOP establishment wangled the nomination for incumbent Thad Cochran, then the United States Senate's Republican leader may pay the price.

If McDaniel doesn't win the nomination and enough Tea Partiers and Tea Party sympathizers feel that he was cheated by an alliance of convenience of liberal Democrats voting, illegally or even legally, in the runoff, and the Mississippi GOP establishment, those of them who can vote in Mississippi can express their disgust by abstaining from voting in the Senate race or casting a write-in vote for McDaniel.

But the Tea Party phenomenon is national, not limited to Mississippi. There are plenty of Tea Partiers and Tea Party sympathizers in other states, including Kentucky, and they can have pay back against the national GOP establishment, at McConnell's expense.

Jacobs reported that in a recent poll, nearly 20% of self-identified Kentucky Republicans didn't support McConnell and elaborated:

"Scott Hofstra, spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party, said he isn't backing McConnell and 'taking the lesser of the two evils approach.' Many conservatives, Hofstra predicted, either will leave the box on the ballot for U.S. Senate empty or will vote for David Patterson, the libertarian candidate. The senator has alienated many Tea Partiers and has yet to reach out to bridge the gap, Hofstra said. The divide was opened further, he added, by McConnell's open support for Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Senate runoff and McConnell's association with pro-Cochran ads that many conservatives assailed as race-baiting. 'If there were some people on the fence after what happened in Kentucky, the Mississippi incident really put them over the edge,' Hofstra said...."

It would be ironic if McConnell saved Cochran's Senate seat and then lost him own as a result.

It may happen if the Mississippi GOP ignores compelling evidence and its own clear rules to give a nomination that should be awarded to McDaniel to Cochran instead.

It's one thing to expect Tea Partiers to vote for a GOP establishment candidate who wins a Republican primary fairly and quite another thing to expect them to vote for a GOP establishment candidate who wins a Republican primary unfairly.

McDaniel recedntly filed a formal election challenge with the Mississippi GOP.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post summarized McDaniel's case this way:

"[McDaniel's] evidence was made available to reporters at the event, but [is] not yet online, so we must take [his attorney's] explanation as our guide. The campaign had repeatedly argued that it had found more questionable votes through a review of voter rolls than the 7,500 votes that separate McDaniel and Cochran; on Monday, that was revised somewhat. The campaign found 3,500 so-called 'crossover' votes, in which Democrats voted in the Democratic primary and then in the Republican run-off. This is understood to be a violation of state law, although it doesn't appear to have been challenged in the past according to experts the Post has spoken with. Whether or not this is cause for those votes to be removed from consideration is unclear, as we've discussed before.

"Additionally, the campaign found 9,500 votes where there are questions, presumably about the same issue. And then there are 2,275 improper absentee ballots. If all of those are found to be violations and the executive committee decides to act, it could declare McDaniel the winner. At least according to Team McDaniel. It no longer aims for an (unlikely) jury trial, apparently; it now thinks that the executive committee will simply hand the victory to McDaniel.

"But apparently not because of those contested votes. Last week, the campaign gave a preview of its new line of reasoning. In a press release, it argued that the party's rule 11(b) mandates that candidates be elected only with Republican votes. In other words, McDaniel's team likely aims to prove that Cochran's margin of victory came from Democratic votes, and therefore wasn't a victory at all.

"It said as much. 'We did some post-election polling,' Tyner said, and '71 percent of [Democrats] said they would not support the Republican in the general election.' By using some 'mathematical regression,' he argued, they could toss enough Democratic votes to be declared the winners, by some 25,000 votes.

"In other words, the argument goes like this. Democrats voted in the runoff, which, even if it's legal under Mississippi law, is a violation of the party's nominating rules. Given the number of additional votes Cochran received in the runoff – more than a similar increase seen by McDaniel – the campaign clearly plans to argue that many of those votes were from Democrats and should be considered invalid. The McDaniel argument will almost certainly focus on the racial make-up of counties that saw an increase in turnout from the primary to the runoff to bolster its argument, which we can predict both because an early draft of its Rule 11(b) press release was explicit about the racial component...."

The only question with respect to the Mississippi runoff appears to be how many illegal votes were counted for Cochran, not whether any illegal votes were cast for him.

Maybe Cochran defied the odds and really won the runoff after coming in second the first time, but it seems likely, that there were even more illegal and questionable votes than McDaniel claims and significantly possible that McConnell will pay the price for the perception that McDaniel didn't get a fair shake.

The assumption that Tea Partiers and Tea Party sympathizers can be taken for granted in general elections is dangerous and McConnell is in the danger zone.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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