After losing the initial round of voting earlier this month, incumbent Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran squeaked out a win over conservative challenger Chris McDaniel in Tuesday’s GOP Senate run-off — saving establishment Republicans from another embarrassing primary loss this summer.
With about 98 percent of the vote in on Tuesday evening, Cochran was leading McDaniel, a state senator, 50 percent to 49 percent, respectively. The Associated Press called the race at about 10 p.m. central.
Tuesday’s closely-watched run-off came after McDaniel edged Cochran in votes in the initial election earlier this month. Because no candidate exceeded 50 percent, voters headed to the polls again on Tuesday.
Cochran — who often acknowledged on the trail that he didn’t know much about the tea party movement — has been in the Senate since 1978.
McDaniel had the support of many local and national tea party groups, while Cochran boasted support of many of the state’s GOP establishment, like former Gov. Haley Barbour.
“Thad lived up to his reputation as a statesman who always puts what is best for Mississippi and Mississippians first,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Jerry Moran. The NRSC actively supported Cochran and attacked McDaniel throughout the campaign.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s re-match, Cochran attempted to woo black voters to cross party lines — if they didn’t vote in the Democratic primary a few weeks ago — and vote for him over McDaniel.
The race was particularly nasty: McDaniel was harmed by the revelation that a supporter broke into the nursing home of Cochran’s bedridden wife to take photos of her; Cochran faced attacks from conservatives over the pork he has brought home to Mississippi over the years.
“Thad Cochran was able to squeak by against a previously little-known state senator thanks to the largesse of the Mississippi and Washington establishments,” said Brent Bozell, the chairman of the group ForAmerica, who supported McDaniel.
Cochran will face former Democratic Rep. Travis Childers in November and is favored to win.