Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran To Seek Seventh Term
Notwithstanding a challenge from a Tea Party backed candidate, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran will be running for a 7th term in 2014:
WASHINGTON — Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican who was first elected to the Senate in 1978, set up a generational and ideological clash in the state’s Republican primary when he announced Friday that he would seek a seventh term in 2014.
While Mr. Cochran, who turns 76 on Saturday, has the support of many leading Republicans in the state, he is already facing opposition from Chris McDaniel, 41, a state senator aligned with the Tea Party who announced his candidacy in October and has won the support of some conservative groups.
Mr. Cochran, who has raised less than $1 million for his re-election, had been thought to be leaning toward retirement. But Mississippi Republicans said they believed Mr. McDaniel’s challenge and pleas from powerful figures across the state that Mr. Cochran seek another term prompted the senator to mount what will probably be his final campaign.
There is also the prospect of Mr. Cochran reclaiming the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee if Republicans win back the Senate.
The primary could be the toughest race of his career. Mr. Cochran has faced little opposition in his 34 years in the Senate, routinely winning re-election by large margins over little-known Democrats. But the primary could offer insight into fundamental questions about the Republican Party: whether longevity and clout in a Deep South state that has traditionally venerated such qualities are enough to overcome national trends toward limited-government conservatism.
With some conservatives determined to replace Republicans like Mr. Cochran, he must appeal to elements of the primary electorate that prefer a more ideologically pure senator.
Mr. McDaniel has sought to seize on the new anti-spending fervor, casting Mr. Cochran — who has delivered billions of dollars in federal spending projects to his impoverished state — as an avatar of a bygone political culture.
“The national debt is the greatest moral crisis of this generation,” Mr. McDaniel said in announcing his candidacy in October. “So, let’s go forth from this place making it perfectly clear that the era of big spending is over. The age of appropriations must end.”
Mr. McDaniel has already gotten help in making this case from some conservative groups like the Club for Growth, which is already airing ads in the state praising him as “the new strong conservative leader Mississippi needs in the U.S. Senate.”
But Mr. Cochran is a formidable figure in a state that has long relied on federal largess and that rarely turns over its Senate seats. He will have the support of Mississippi’s political and business establishment, which are deeply worried about what losing Mr. Cochran would mean to a state that, without him, would have little seniority in its congressional delegation.
Along with Georgia, where several Republicans are running for the GOP nomination in a race to fill the seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss, and Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is being challenged by a Tea Party candidate, and Wyoming, where we have the face off between Mike Enzi and Liz Cheney, this makes Mississippi the fourth state to have what is likely to have a high profile primary next year. Like Wyoming, there seems to be little doubt that whomever happens to win the nomination will go on to win the General Election, but the battle will tell us a lot about the state of play inside the GOP and the ongoing conflict between the “old guard” and the Tea Party, which seems to have entered a new phase since the government shutdown fiasco. For the moment, though, I’d put my money on Cochran in this particular fight.