JACKSON, Miss. (TheBlaze/AP) — US Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeated tea party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel in a heated and controversial GOP runoff in Mississippi on Tuesday night.
Returns showed Cochran with a lead of about 3,800 votes, holding 50.5 percent of the vote to McDaniel's 49.5 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
Republican Senator Thad Cochran responds to a reporter's question at a Cochran for Senate rally at the Mississippi War Memorial in Jackson, Miss., Monday, June 23, 2014. Cochran faces state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, on Tuesday in a runoff for the GOP nomination for senate. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
The race has left some conservatives fuming after Cochran reached out to traditionally Democratic voters - blacks and union members - in a last-ditch effort to defeat the younger McDaniel, his challenger from the right who appeared to have a good chance at winning. Voters who cast ballots in the earlier Democratic primary were barred from participating.
The race attracted $12 million in spending by outside groups. Cochran made the argument to voters that he was a solid conservative who would continue routing federal money back to Mississippi, just as he's done for decades. McDaniel held up Cochran as the face of an out-of-touch Congress responsible for a $17 trillion national debt.
The heated race resulted a number of allegations against both campaigns. Earlier this week, a county district attorney concluded that no crime was committed after a McDaniel staffer and two supporters locked themselves in a courthouse where ballots were being held on election night. And a Cochran campaign staffer was fired on Monday amid charges of criminal mischief for stealing McDaniel yard signs.
McDaniel has run promising a more aggressive and ideologically pure war against the Democratic agenda. Cochran has argued that his seniority has helped Mississippi secure critical federal dollars and that McDaniel is an extremist who would embarrass the state in Washington.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, looks at his supporters prior to speaking at a rally on his behalf in Flowood, Miss., Monday, June 23, 2014. McDaniel is in a runoff against long-time U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran for the GOP nomination for senate. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Some conservatives were fuming on Twitter Tuesday, alleging that Cochran betrayed the right by enlisting Democrats to defeat McDaniel:
The Cochran campaign had two prongs, 1)Character assassination & 2) Fear monger black Americans into voting (+$ for voters). #mssen— David Shor (@IshYimini) June 25, 2014
Will Cochran reach out to the Republican voters that his campaign smeared as racists?— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) June 25, 2014
Cochran's camp spewed lies and Democrat sheep in Mississippi took the bait. Truly despicable.— Jerome Hudson (@JeromeEHudson) June 25, 2014
I can't support a party that would do what it did to keep Thad Cochran in office. As an original Reagan Democrat. I'm done.— DanRiehl (@DanRiehl) June 25, 2014
Kibbe tells me Cochran’s mobilization of Dems is “an embarrassment" and “proof that the whole old GOP is intellectually bankrupt"— Robert Costa (@costareports) June 25, 2014
In another blow to the tea party movement, two-term Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma won the GOP nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down with two years left in his term. In the solidly Republican state, Lankford is all but assured of becoming the next senator.
Watch our extended discussion on this story from today's BlazeCast: