One, many pundits and prognosticators (PandP’s) predicted he was going to lose to his Tea Party challenger. For some context, this was after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was shocked in his primary in Virginia, losing to a Tea Party candidate. So, in the PandP’s eyes, the Tea Party was on the rise, again. They had momentum (as if “momentum” from a win in one state’s House race translates to victory in another state's Senate race).
Two, he won by reaching out to Democratic voters, who happened to be black. This, of course, is an irony that shocks watchers of Mississippi politics who think all Republicans are racist and love pointing out that this old, white Republican saved his tenure by reaching out to blacks. Ok, I’ll admit, that’s a bit surprising but isn’t it equally, or more, surprising that those black voters actually responded and came out to save his tenure??
Granted, in some people’s minds, Thad Cochran is far superior to any Tea Party candidate, and I get that. But they could have just stayed home and waited to be, maybe, energized by a Democrat candidate who could beat a Tea Party guy. After all, wouldn’t a Tea Party guy (or woman) be the ideal candidate for Democrats to run against in Mississippi? If, for no other reason, to leverage that race to show what racists, extremists and nuts Republicans are?
Look, I’m a great admirer of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who once was my boss at the Republican National Committee, and who gets a lot of credit for saving Cochran’s seat. Barbour is one of the smartest politicians I’ve ever met. But he can’t make black voters vote for an old, white Republican. They have to see some benefit. And they did. Thank goodness.
The other part of the horse race (a phrase carefully chosen) in Mississippi is PandP’s were excited because they saw this as a key race for the “Tea Party vs. GOP establishment narrative” they’ve created. Is there a struggle in the Republican Party? Yes, of course. Same as in the Democratic Party on the other end of the political spectrum. I mean, do you believe liberals are 100 percent still infatuated still with President Obama?. But you can’t keep score one race at a time. You have to look at the patterns. The pattern, this year, is the establishment is winning. The pattern in the past has been mixed. But if the Tea Party can’t win in Mississippi, shouldn’t that spur a lot of stories about the Tea Party’s “weakness”?
My point is the media, of which I am in general a huge supporter, is going a bit nuts over the intra-GOP battle going on. They want to declare winners and losers and it’s way too soon for that. Some “Tea Partyers” in the Congress already are moderating somewhat as they position themselves to try for national office. They know that such perceived extremist views will not play in a national vote.
These guys, some of whom are not such true believers, are much like the GOP of the 80s when the party relied so heavily on the Religious Right that the Religious Right was taking over the party from the establishment. They didn’t. And here’s hoping the same is true of the current situation.