Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus disputed the notion Sunday that Democrats could pick up a U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi if conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel defeats incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran for the GOP nomination this month.
“I don’t think anyone with some minimal level of political sophistication actually believes that Mississippi is going to be somehow coming into play in November,” Priebus said in an interview with ABC News, which aired on This Week With George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
McDaniel won more votes than Cochran in Mississippi’s Republican primary last week. But because McDaniel barely missed the 50 percent threshold to win the primary outright, he and Cochran will battle again during a June 24 runoff.
With McDaniel on the cusp of a win, allies of Cochran have raised electability questions, suggesting McDaniel could lose a general election to Democratic nominee Travis Childers. McDaniel is a former radio show host, and Democrats, the thinking goes, could exploit certain comments he’s made over the years.
But a Rasmussen poll in March indicated McDaniel would have a 12 point lead over Childers in the race.
The Daily Caller reached out to several political science professors in Mississippi to ask whether they buy the argument that Democrats could be competitive if McDaniel wins the nomination.
“Childers needs high black turnout, and probably close to 25 percent of the white vote to win,” professor Marek Steedman of the University of Southern Mississippi wrote in an email. “Likely? No. Impossible? I am not ready to say that yet.”
Steedman added: “At the national level just having a competitive race in a red state could be seen as a plus for Democrats: it will surely funnel some resources away from other races, and spread Republican campaign funds more thinly, regardless of the outcome. But spreading the board for Republicans by forcing them to defend in Mississippi is also spreading the board for Democrats, and I am less inclined to think they will commit serious resources unless McDaniel looks more vulnerable than he does today.”
Glenn J. Antizzo, a professor of political science at Mississippi College, told TheDC that McDaniel might have a hard time coalescing Cochran supporters if he wins the election.
“Typically, Republicans would rally around the party’s standard bearer, but I am not as certain about it this time,” Antizzo said. “Adding to that, the very dirty campaign has really turned off voters. I have personally received a push-poll phone call that was a bit over-the-top, even for those type of calls. If he were to win, McDaniel would have to work hard to win over people in his own party who had backed Cochran. It can be done, but McDaniel would have to do it quickly and have his support solidified by no later than mid-August.”