The Tea Party Needs To Stop Whining About Losing In Mississippi
Chris McDaniel and his Tea Party supporters are being very sore losers.
Thad Cochran’s victory over Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel on Tuesday night has opened up a huge rift in the Republican Party, and resulted in Tea Party supporters and conservative pundits denouncing how Cochran won, the GOP itself, and threatening to not support Cochran in November:
WASHINGTON — Republicans reacted on Wednesday to Senator Thad Cochran’s victory-by-inches in a primary runoff in Mississippi with a mix of views that reflected the sharp divide between the party’s establishment and Tea Party wings.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a prominent voice of the Tea Party movement, said that despite the loss on Tuesday by State Senator Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party-aligned challenger to Mr. Cochran, he was struck by how close the race was and by the great effort that establishment Republicans took to beat an upstart candidate.
“You saw the Washington Republican establishment put millions of dollars into that race to preserve an incumbent,” Mr. Cruz said on Fox News on Wednesday, “and they encouraged an awful lot of Democrats to vote in that race, and won a razor-thin race. I think that demonstrates that there’s a lot of hunger for change.”
But Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who just fought off a primary challenge of his own from several opponents to his right, called the campaign against Mr. Cochran a misguided “purification effort” that was only hurting the party.
You add up all the money we spent on this intraparty fight, that’s a lot of resources we could have had to pick up the seats necessary to get a majority,” Mr. Graham said on Wednesday. “Thad Cochran, like any of us, I’m sure, is not a perfect senator. But really is he the problem compared to our Democratic colleagues?”
Mr. McDaniel has not conceded the race, but there were signs that some of his strongest backers were moving on.
“We are proud of the effort we made in Mississippi’s Senate race, and we congratulate the winner,” Chris Chocola, the president of the Club for Growth, the antitax group that spent more than $3 million to support Mr. McDaniel, said in a written statement. “We expect that Senator Cochran and others gained a new appreciation of voter frustration about the threats to economic freedom and national solvency.”
Some of the national Tea Party groups that poured money into Mr. McDaniel’s campaign were so angry that they were considering drastic options to keep their candidate afloat politically.
According to one person involved in the discussions among the leaders of these groups, the possibilities include trying to build support for a third-party run by Mr. McDaniel — a move that would almost certainly draw Republican votes away from Mr. Cochran and help his Democratic challenger, Travis Childers.
In addition, some Tea Party leaders were discussing throwing their weight behind Mr. Childers. Though he is a Democrat, some of his views — he is anti-abortion and opposes the Affordable Care Act — are attractive to conservatives. “The Tea Party is so burned they may do something radical,” a conservative leader involved in the planning said, asking not to be named in order to discuss internal deliberations.
Some Tea Party supporters were pushing for Mr. McDaniel to wage a write-in campaign in the general election.
Wayne Allyn Root, a libertarian commentator and onetime third-party candidate for vice president who is aligned with the Tea Party, wrote on Twitter that if Mr. McDaniel campaigned as a write-in candidate, “I’ll be in Mississippi campaigning by my friend’s side. Take Cochran down in general election.”
The vitriol was even worse from others on the right:
On the right’s favorite websites as well as on Twitter, the conservative reaction to McDaniel’s loss was one of rage and sorrow. Even in those corners of the right-wing Internet usually more devoted to stability, calm and deference to the GOP establishment, the belief that Cochran had survived McDaniel’s challenge by relying on Democratic voters — African-American ones, no less! — inspired vitriol.
For example, here’s how John Fund of National Review began his post reacting to McDaniel’s loss: “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.” Fund went on to claim that while the establishment would “justify their tactics by claiming that all is fair in politics” the truth is that the election’s 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.”
(In a later post, Fund wondered whether a flyer he reported was prominent in African-American communities was the reason Cochran won.)
On a similar note, the Daily Caller reported Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-aligned outside group, calling the election result “disgraceful” and railing that “a campaign platform of pork barrel spending and insider deal-making, while recruiting Democrats to show up at the polls” had been supported by “self-described GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell, John McCain, the Chamber of Commerce and the NRSC.” Somewhat curiously, Kibbe then tried to argue that his side’s loss on Tuesday was proof that “we’ve already won” because “the only way the K Street wing of the GOP establishment can win is by courting Democrats to vote in GOP primaries.”
The commentary from the usual suspects on the right has also been about what you’d expect. Glenn Beck said that outcome got him so angry he fired a rifle in his office. Rush Limbaugh said that Cochran won by appealing to “Black Uncle Toms.” Sarah Palin said that the runoff should be investigated for so-called “illegal voting” and suggested once again she’d be agreeable to the idea of quitting the Republican Party. And Tea Party groups and Sean Hannity are urging McDaniel to run as a write-in candidate and for Mississippi Republicans to vote for Democratic candidate Travis Childers. I’ve seen similar comments, and worse, from the usual conservative sources on Twitter, Facebook, and in the blogosphere. Obviously, there’s a lot of resentment here that Cochran not only won a race that, by all accounts he seemed destined to lose, but that he did so by adopting a campaign strategy that seemed unlikely to win in a runoff campaign for a Republican Senate nomination.
Of all the complaints that have been batted about since Tuesday night, the most common one on the right seems to be the claim that Cochran only won because he convinced Democrats to get out and vote for him. This allegation seems to be at the center of the allegations that some on the right are making that there may have been something illegal going on, but my admittedly cursory examination of Mississippi election law indicates that there was nothing improper here. Mississippi has open primaries, so Democrats are permitted to vote in the Republican Primary. There is a bar against Democrats who voted in the primary three weeks ago from voting in the runoff, but that’s something that can easily be checked at the polling place. Cochran won by making an appeal to those voters, and specifically to African-Americans in Mississippi, who he has generally had a good relationship with in the 36 years he’s been in the Senate. Because there was apparently no exit polling done by the news media on Tuesday, we’ll never be entirely sure how much the Democratic and African-American vote helped Cochran, but Harry Enten makes a persuasive argument for the proposition that it played a crucial role.
As for the race itself, Tom Dougherty gets its right when it points out the simple fact that Cochran won by running a better, more creative, campaign that McDaniel:
As expected there have been a plethora of good articles already written about the “surprising” outcome of Thad Cochran’s victory in Tuesday’s runoff election in Mississippi; and they have covered quite a spectrum of viewpoints.
I will not regurgitate those points here, and will simply cut to the heart of the matter from a political strategist perspective – Chris McDaniel lost because he was out “got” and outplayed, period.
Ask any campaign operative or strategist what their job is and, if they know what they’re doing, you will hear an answer very much like, “I don’t make the rules but my job is to win within the rules, regardless of what they are.”
That is exactly what Thad Cochran’s campaign did, and it is why Chris McDaniel’s camp lost.
Dougherty also had a fairly blunt message for McDaniel supporters and Tea Party types who are complaining about Cochran’s victory:
The strategies and tactics employed by the Cochran campaign to defeat McDaniel have existed, and been utilized in varying ways, for many decades. They are aggressive and extreme but they are lawful and can be, as seen last night, highly effective.
If they anger, annoy, distress, disturb or cause you angst then your skin is far too thin and your shoulders are much too narrow to spend time in the political arena.
The attitude that Dougherty addresses here seems to be very prevalent among Tea Party supporters. Whether we’re talking about election results or a piece of legislation in Congress, the attitude seems to be that absent total victory nothing else is acceptable. As I’ve noted many times before, this is an attitude that is simply not a viable strategy for governing at the Congressional (or state legislative) level because legislation involves compromises and accepting half-victories on important issues, this is especially true in an era of divided government. It’s also an attitude that doesn’t serve well if you’re trying to gain influence inside of a political party, which is what the Tea Party is supposedly trying to do inside the GOP. If you’re part of a political movement that wants to move the GOP in a certain direction you have to realize how politics works. It doesn’t work if your answer to losing an election is saying “I’m taking my marbles and going home!” Like the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is always going to be a broad coalition. Presently that coalition includes business interests, mainstream conservatives, moderate Republicans, a growing libertarian strain, and the hard right of the party, which is what the Tea Party is and always has been. None of these groups are going to find other Republicans very willing to cooperate with them in the future if they continue with the “all or nothing” strategy. I can understand why people might not like the idea of compromise, but if you want to succeed as part of a major national political party, you’re going to have to learn how to live with it or you’re not going to go anywhere.
Jeff Quinton makes a similar point:
If you want to be a part of a political party and want candidates who espouses the principles you agree with to be that party’s nominee, then work your tail off, donate money, and do all you can to legally make sure your candidate wins. Then, if you’re really interested in that party you will support the nominee in November. Otherwise, you leave the party and go to another one or start your own. You have the right to complain all you want about anything at anytime, but others have a right to call you out on it as well.
Think strategically instead of tactically sometimes. It’s a big picture and you can make incremental gains to achieve your goals. That’s the way all the successful movements have achieved their goal. I know I’ll be called a RINO by some for this, but I don’t really care. The people who know me know I’m anything but that.
On some level, the Tea Party reaction to the Cochran win is just the latest manifestation of what has happened in Republican primaries this year. For two election cycles, mainstream Republicans essentially let Tea Party groups have free reign over the primary process, resulting in the selection of disastrous candidates such as Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Richard Mourdock, as well as a plethora of embarrassing House candidates such as Joe Walsh and Allen West. In Congress, leadership let itself be pushed around by the Tea Party caucus on issues ranging from the debt ceiling to the idiotic government shutdown last October. In essence, leaders like Boehner and McConnell gave the Tea Party everything it wanted when it came to confrontations with the White House, and they would still find themselves targeted because it wasn’t perfect enough. The shutdown in October and the massive hit the party took in the polls at the time were the last straw, it seems, and set off a strategy in which the mainstream of the party decided that it was time to fight back. In Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina, and now Mississippi we’ve seen Tea Party challenges to sitting Senators defeated, and in states like Georgia Tea Party candidates were blocked from the runoff in the Senate race in favor of two decidedly “establishment” candidates. Mississippi looked like a race that they could’ve won, and if they had it would’ve been a bigger win that David Brat’s defeat of Eric Cantor, which happened without any real support from the Tea Party at the national level. Cochran outsmarted them, though, and they spent most of yesterday being positively apoplectic.
In the end, I tend to think that much of this rancor on the right will amount to nothing. The days and weeks after one has lost a hard fought campaign are times when emotions are high, but eventually cooler heads prevail. McDaniel running a write-in campaign or otherwise encouraging supporters to stay home on Election Day or vote for Childers would do nothing more but make it more likely that the Democrats would win the seat and hold it for the next six years. Such an outcome could also make the difference between a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled Senate. The hotheads on the right will say they don’t care about stuff like this, but the people who actually run the Tea Party show are unlikely to feel the same way. Of course, I could be proven wrong in this guess. In which case, the war between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party will get even more harsh, which may be all it takes to cost the GOP the Senate in November.
But the Tea Party doesn’t care if the Democrats keep the senate. In fact, they’d probably prefer it, since they hate Republicans more than they do Democrats. They certainly have spent more time and energy targeting Republicans than Democrats.
They also hate the voters for failing to appreciate their candidates.
Good luck. Tea Party or not, whining seems to be what Republicans do.
McDaniel has said “we’re not going to concede, we’re going to investigate,” asserting many Democrats who voted for Cochran had voted in the Democratic primary.
Evidence for this assertion: none. Not that evidence matters to the Tea Party types.
It still amazes me how willing they are to work for Democratic gains–I mean, does anyone actually think McDaniel going third party would result in anything besides a win for the Democrats? But then @CSK may well be right:
I’m hoping that the Tea Party folks will be as purist and misguided as the liberals who backed Nader in 2000 but God doesn’t love liberals that much.
Unfortunately, I do think conservatives will cool off and vote for Cochrane. I think too that their fear and hatred of blacks and ceding any political power to them is the kind of glue that will trump any intra-conservative schism.
@stonetools: True. As Charles Pierce says. “It’s not about race, it’s never about race.”
Beat me to it.
It’s not a strategy, it’s their fundamental worldview. When you are so authoritarian and dogmatic that compromise is THE dirty word, you can’t gracefully accept second place. Hell, you can’t even take first place as a win if you didn’t take it by a landslide. Curb stomp battles, Secretariat out in front.
It’s an ego thing. If you don’t completely outclass your opponent, then you must acknowledge they are either almost as good as you or you are not as great as you think you are. And if your rival succeeded (even at some little thing), it steals from your victory since you weren’t Sol Invictus and Spartacus all wrapped up in a pretty political bow.
Oh, they do absolutely hate Republicans more than they hate Democrats. Some of them are vowing to vote for Grimes in Tennessee and Childers in Mississippi.
The logic–if you can call it that–behind this action is that if we end up with 80 Democratic senators and 20 Ted Cruz clones, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, the result will be an eventual takeover by the Tea Party, because the force and strength of the 20 will overcome the evil of the 80.
Yeah, yeah, I know. But that’s what they think. Or purport to think.
But at base, this is an internecine culture war. The Tea Party think of themselves as the Christian patriots versus the Godless liberal Republican “elites.”
Do you really think that a group of people who want the Government to keep it’s hands off their Social Security and Medicare…are ever going to stop whining?
@CSK: Sorry, I meant Grimes in Kentucky, not Tennessee. Although they’re also trying to get rid of Alexander in Tennessee, on the grounds that he wants to flood the country with brown-skinned people.
Doesn’t he sell kids’ breakfast cereal?
Ah yes, obviously because your candidate didn’t win it must be because of nefarious shenanigans and not because simply more people came out to vote for his opponent.
“Black Uncle Toms”? Yeah, that outreach program to African-Americans is going SO well, isn’t it, guys…
Just for once I’d like to see some bigwig of the Republican Party call out Limbaugh and point out how he is making things worse for the Republican Party and if he can’t remain polite about all voters he should take himself off the airways.
Good luck with that…every time they come close they end up running back to kiss his ring and apologize.
Seems they forget the lesson learned in the fight over the nomination for governor of Alabama in 1986. Though Childer’s boast of high ratings from the NRA and pro-life groups will make some D’s reach for the maalox.
McDaniels was of a piece with the other miserable Tea Party candidates (O’Donnell, Angle, Miller, Mourdock, Walsh, etc, etc.) A shock-jock who embraced the Conservative Citizens Councils (check their newsletters decrying “Black males’ desire for white women”) pissed off enough African-Americans to lose an election. Whoda thunk it?
Patterico actually looked at Mississippi’s elections laws, and thinks that the complaints might have merit. And his points make a bit of sense.
Resisting the obvious. And do I really have to say it?
The MS Tea Partiers should work to change the GOP primary rules. Use that anger and channel it.
I personally think open primaries kinda suck, and sympathize on that particular point. I also remember what happened here in CT with Lieberman (the crossover voting there was in the general, not the primary, and is of course totally ok. Just frustrating).
Also, too: the narrative about the Teas losing and this and that… well, from where I sit I see a very, very narrow loss. A nobody, basically, took on a long time incumbent and very nearly unseated him. The “establishment” just barely hung on. For those of us who abhor the TP, I don’t see anything heartwarming here (particuarly b/c said long time incumbent is no “moderate” so it’s not like liberals won much, if anything at all, here).
@Jenos Idanian #13:
If what you are hanging your argument on is an unenforceable law — before we even get into the constitutionality of it — the odds are not in your favor. Which Paternico himself notes:
McDaniel’s only hope is that they can invalidate voters based on having already participated in the Democratic primary. That is a very slim hope — though I guess still a possibility.
To @Davebo’s point, any gun rights advocates want to defend Glenn Beck’s rather unique choice of anger management?
So if you vote in a primary and your preferred candidate loses you either have to not vote in the general or vote for the person your candidate lost too?
I agree that the law is unenforceable. It’s impossible to know who those non-Republicans voted for in the primary. However, would you agree that the law attempts to prohibit exactly what it appears has happened here? And, if you were a McDaniel voter, you would have a legitimate reason to be upset.
It’s what McDaniel is hanging his hat on…desperation due to a lack of options almost always leads to irrational ideas.
@Davebo: It doesn’t say “will” or “must,” but “intend.” If your candidate loses, then you can’t vote for them, so intent becomes moot.
But if you vote for two different candidates in two different primaries, you obviously can’t intend to vote for both in the general.
And if you look at the Patterico article, there are clear examples of illegal campaign tactics being used to urge people who voted in the Democratic primary to vote for Cochran.
Verifies everything I believe about the gun cult.
I have nothing against guns…but people like Beck who are clearly unhinged…should not be allowed access to them.
The law attempts to do something that is clearly unconstitutional.
I say McDaniels should have his little tantrum and his day in court.
That way the idiotic proviso can be struck from the law.
@Matt Bernius: To @Davebo’s point, any gun rights advocates want to defend Glenn Beck’s rather unique choice of anger management?
Considering Beck’s past theatrics, I find myself doubting he actually did it. But if he did, he’s an irresponsible gun owner and should be charged with reckless endangerment.
And even though David Gregory willfully broke gun laws himself and was given a pass, that doesn’t mean Beck should get one.
Will those who thought Gregory shouldn’t have been charged also come to Beck’s defense?
@Jenos Idanian #13:
What the hell has David Gregory got to do with anything??
Is there some kind of idiot cheat sheet you work off of or do you really come up with this tripe on the fly?
@Jenos Idanian #13: It’s an unconstitutional law and has already been held unenforceable. Which you would have discovered with just a little digging around.
Nice try to defend the indefensible, pumpkin, but your legal Google skillz suck.
P.S. Patterico seems to have equivalently abysmal legal research skills. Not surprising.
This is from the guy who turns the whining up to 11 if you bring a former US President into a discussion about politics.
Meh. I’m still going to stick with what I said — IF Beck actually did what he said he did, he should be charged.
And Patterico noted that the pro-Cochran flyer lacked any identification as to who paid for it, as required by law.
Lee Atwater would be proud.
“I did intend to vote for him. I changed my mind. Prove otherwise.”
@Ken: How about finding out who put out those illegal flyers and going after them for violating campaign laws? That cool with you?
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Sure you can. You can change your mind. That’s the magic of the undecided voter.
Hey, look over there! No, seriously, I totally mean it, guys, look over there! Not over here, over there!
Why? This was a *open* primary. And given the case of a state with an open primary system where the Republicans are almost guaranteed to win, why shouldn’t Democratic voters be given a say in which Republican is going to represent them?
If this was a closed primary state, then it’s an entirely different story.
Intent is an impossible to quantify ideal. Further, what happens, for example, if new information about *your* candidate — who won the primary — emerges that prevents you from ethically voting for him? Should your primary vote be discounted?
Further, the law is actually apparently saying that you swear you intend to vote for whomever wins the primary you voted in. Again:
After all, what about all the Tea Party members who voted for McDaniel. I’m sure some of those folks, based on their deeply held beliefs, could never intentionally pull the lever for a establishment, sell-out RINO? Shouldn’t all of their votes be invalidated as well if they didn’t intend to vote for Cochran if he won? Basically, this eliminates the possibility of protest votes (or not voting out of protest).
Face it, its a bad and unenforceable law. Hanging an argument upon it demonstrates a weak argument.
If you are voting in the Democratic Primary and then vote in the Republican Primary, then you are correct. I see nothing wrong with limiting it to a single party vote per cycle. But the entire idea of “run off” includes the idea of winning over voters from your opponent. So I see no problem with voting for one individual in the first round and revisiting your opinion in the second round.
Beyond that, as has been pointed out on numerous occaisions, there are lots of laws for prosecuting election fraud. And generally speaking, folks never want these strengthened *until* their candidate falls victim to a “dirty trick.”
It’s kinda like the rule that Republicans, in particular, hate lawyers up until the time comes for *them* to lawyer up.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
While I think you have a bit of a point, I hope you would recognize a slight difference in scale between showing an illegal magazine and unsafely discharging a weapon.
To your broader point, I doubt that Glenn Beck actually did it. But given that he’s been championing gun rights, 2nd amendment, and supposed safe gun ownership, the fact he’s essentially bragging about engaging in fundamentally unsafe gun practices is *just a wee bit problematic.*
BTW, apparently Mississippi law includes no provision for challenging a vote based on “intent.”
@Jenos Idanian #13:
You are incorrect. Urging those who had already voted in the D primary would have been futile, as they would have been barred from voting by election judges. This was an attempt to get those who had not yet voted in either primary to vote in the runoff.
And if that tactic is illegal, then so was McDaniels vote in the 2003 Democratic primary for Ronnie Musgrove was equally illegal.
Must’ve missed it. Where did Patterico claim that? Seems a pretty specious claim: An unknown person handed an anonymous tipster a flyer that he copied and passed along to a conservative blogger. You’re gonna invalidate an election based on that?
@CSK: They must have some kind of weird mental gymnastics going on, because as I see it pretty much everything they do diminishes the GOP and empowers the Democrats.
Maybe they just want permanent gridlock? I guess that would make sense from their perspective.
Whatever they think they want, the actual effect is self-marginalization.
@Matt Bernius: I find it ironic that Edith Jones prospectively put McDaniels out of his misery. Thanks for finding that link
That’s the point: To destroy the GOP and replace it with a Tea Party.
@Jenos Idanian #13: Oh yeah, such good points. Basically they come down to “who said the ni@@ers could vote in our election!”
No wonder you were swayed by the persuasive logic.
@Jon Marcus: Patterico’s got a followup, and there is some fairly strong circumstantial evidence that Hailey Barbour’s group was behind the flyers.
Proof? No. But enough to merit more investigation.
Besides, Jon, think about this: this is a fight of Republicans vs. Republicans. Why the hell would you want to interfere in that kind of intra-party fighting? shouldn’t you be egging it on?