Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Mississippi Runoff Takes Financial Toll on GOP (Video)

In Mississippi runoff, McDaniel, above, is seeking the GOP nod over Cochran. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the Mississippi runoff, McDaniel, above, is seeking the GOP nod over Cochran. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mississippi’s bruising GOP Senate primary, which voters will decide Tuesday in a runoff (get live results here!), has come at great cost — more than $17 million — to Republicans.

More than 30 Republican-friendly outside groups, from Club for Growth Action to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have lavished in excess of $11.3 million on the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s almost twice the $6.1 million spent by Sen. Thad Cochran and his tea party challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Liberal groups have essentially sat out the Mississippi primary, rated a Safe Republican contest by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. As of early May, conservative groups had spent three times more attacking one another in primaries around the country than they had against Democratic candidates, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

“This is the tea party’s last stand, and their best chance to knock off an incumbent senator,” said Kevin Broughton, communications director for the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, which has spent close to $800,000 on McDaniel’s behalf. Broughton called the contest “an important race for Mississippians and for the conservative movement as a whole.”

McDaniel has also reaped the rewards of $1.3 million in spending by Senate Conservatives Action, and has been buoyed by a barrage of last-minute ads, rallies and door knocking organized by dozens of conservative groups, small and large. These include a political action committee called Conservative Strikeforce and the California-based Tea Party Express, which weighed in late but is trumpeting its pro-McDaniel bus tour as “ground zero in the battle between the D.C. insider class and the tea party grass roots.”

The biggest spender on McDaniel’s behalf — and in the race as a whole — has been Club for Growth Action, which has shelled out $3.1 million, CRP data show.

For his part, Cochran has gotten a boost from $1.2 million in spending by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and another $1.8 million by Mississippi Conservatives, an unrestricted super PAC run by Henry Barbour, the nephew of GOP operative and former Magnolia State Gov. Haley Barbour. The super PAC’s top donors include Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson, who gave $100,000, and Richard Wax, who owns a company that sells wholesale seeds and bulbs and who gave $50,000.

Marked by headline-grabbing dramas and controversies on both sides, the race has been dubbed “one of the most bitter, mudslinging-est, bizarre political hootenannies in state history” by the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger.

Four McDaniel enthusiasts face criminal charges after barging in to photograph Cochran’s wife in the nursing home where she lives. The Tea Party Patriots have filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against the Mississippi Conservatives super PAC for receiving a $219,540 loan from Mississippi’s Trustmark Bank. PAC organizers have called the complaint a political stunt.

The race has drawn visits from such nationally known conservatives as tea-party-activist Sarah Palin and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. Cochran, in the meantime, has courted African-American voters in what some have cast as a desperate effort to counter McDaniel’s momentum.

Pro-McDaniel forces gained steam after economic professor Dave Brat’s surprise win over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia. In an echo of Brat’s attacks on Cantor’s K Street and Wall Street ties, McDaniel’s allies have turned one of Cochran’s central campaign themes — his ability to deliver federal dollars to Mississippi — into a strike against him.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Cochran’s Senate colleagues have rallied to his defense, and the incumbent may yet eke out a victory. But as GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, learned in Kentucky and South Carolina respectively, winning doesn’t come cheap.

McConnell trounced tea-party-challenger Matt Bevin in the Kentucky primary, but he spent $11 million in the process. Graham spent $8.5 million to fend off a bevy of GOP challengers in his primary. But that adds up to almost as much as he spent for his entire re-election campaign in 2008, which was $9.7 million.

In conservative Mississippi, the drawn-out GOP primary and runoff have left Democrat Travis Childers, a former congressman, sitting far off on the sidelines. After entering the race in late February, Childers had raised $124,000 by the end of May, according to his April quarterly, pre-primary and 48-hour reports filed to the FEC.

Allies for both GOP candidates have voiced confidence that whoever wins the runoff will go on to win the general election.

Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report. 


Related stories: 

Travis Childers Awaits Cochran, McDaniel Primary Finale

Reinforcements Infiltrate Mississippi Runoff

Two Powerful Old Bulls Trying for One Term Too Many?

Thad Cochran Allies Revamp Message for Runoff (Video)

Thad Cochran Runs on Incumbency, Appropriations in GOP Primary

In Mississippi, Two Unlikely Comeback Bids to Congress

Chris McDaniel Voters Finding … Kentucky

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  • ericdondero

    So, this is the Democrat spin? Right-Libertarian Chris McDaniel is set to win a huge victory tonight, an historic win, and instead of headlines such as “Libertarians beat establishment GOP,” we get BS like this, McDaniel’s win is actually a downer?

    My gosh, you all are so disgustingly biased.

    Eric Dondero, Editor
    Libertarian Republican

    • Okie_pastor

      That’s all they got. They’re immaturity blinds any objectivity. The truth is they’re mad their ideology is face planting on pavement in full view of all the world. Spin is their only lifeline, and as you point out it ain’t working.

  • dav

    Gee, honey, sonly money !

  • MNHawk

    What are you babbling about, boy, other than some other man’s tea bags, and what you fantasize doing with them?

  • MNHawk

    Then I guess the GOP better quit wasting money on an establishment candidate now running a racist campaign, thinking he can pull in the votes of trash like Jack Everett if he runs, said racist campaign.

    I guarantee, feral trash like Jack Everett will never vote for Cochran, and neither will I, after the piece of garbage started ginning up racial tensions, in an effort to win.

  • Truth Gun

    Mostly GOP establishment money being spent.

  • A Smith

    Because reduced government spending and demanding rule of law is “fascist.” Face it, if you have a household budget and stick to it, you are sympathetic to the Radical Tea Party Agenda. By the way, I’m not sure any of the bullet points in that graphic are a bad thing.

  • RealAmerican

    Coming from an illiterate, parasitic, piece of liquid dung. Better luck next time idiot. Loosen your helmet on put it on correctly next time. And what would you know about work? democrat.

  • newguy68

    Cochran needs to bow out. He spent too many years in DC.

  • WCommentary

    And worse than this is the toll on GOP fundraising that comes from Republicans making deals with Obama and moving the party to the left.

  • allegre.raul

    How does a state as conservative as Mississippi is have Thad Cochran representing it? That guy needs to go. The conservative states need to start the wave of principled conservatives winning elections and let the other states follow. But if we can’t unseat a waste of space like Cochran that will be disappointing. It doesn’t mean we’ll give up, but it will be a setback.

  • jukin

    Yes, from roll out to billing to the narrow networks the Obama-democrat Care has been only successful in wasting tax money, resources, and raising rates an average 48%. It’s so great and implemented so well that Obama has postponed most of the law’s destruction. Now, the VA that had been the leftists wet-dream of socialized medicine is found to be what socialized health care around the world is; a killer of its patient….I mean expenses and obstacles to getting bonuses..

    Also still the public hates Obama-democrat care 2:1.

  • allegre.raul

    You do realize the Club for Growth and Chamber of Commerce are on opposite sides of the debate among Republicans, right? The Club for Growth is for low taxes, reduced regulation and a business-friendly environment that creates a level playing field for everyone. I would say the Club for Growth represents the people. On the other hand the Chamber of Commerce represents the wants of big business, which currently consists of amnesty. They are for big government and complicated regulations that favor their big business donors. They are for crony capitalism. I’d say the Koch brothers are probably more aligned with the Club for Growth’s philosophy.

  • Okie_pastor

    It’s amazing: it’s a “political stunt” when the accusation is against the Tea Party. Aw beware the root of bitterness. One election at a time, although slowly, we the people will own the Republican Party! Just as it should be!

  • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism

    “Mississippi Runoff Takes Financial Toll on GOP”
    Chuck and Davy Koch spend more dinero on torturing disloyals in six weeks at Cato, Reason, and Americans for Prosperity than they forked over on this primary.
    Kochistan World Headquarters won’t miss this chump change a bit.


    The Republican and Democratic parties have both FAILED the three million workers, and their families, without unemployment benefits since late last December. Over the past six months, these families have continued falling into financial ruin, while waiting for the extension to pass in the senate. The republicans have made every attempt to delay the senate vote, in order to render it too late to pass. The senate democrats and the president have done little to push through the extension vote, and have actually made the delay further possible to implement. When our government can give billions to the Ukraine people it has failed to give these American families the same courtesy. We can send our children to war, but not expect help for the families they leave behind. Shame on these two parties for lacking compassion, and common decency.

  • Oliver Ales

    Although commonly misinterpreted, the word “collectivism” does not refer to the social interaction, coordination, and voluntary association that arise spontaneously from our human nature.

  • Jack Everett

    We now live in a nation where
    doctors destroy health
    lawyers destroy justice
    universities destroy knowledge
    governments destroy freedom
    the press destroys information
    religion destroys morals
    and our banks
    destroy the economy.
    –Chris Hedges

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