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MS-Sen 2014 Tag

Yesterday, Mitch Tyner -- the attorney for the Chris McDaniel for U.S. Senate campaign -- briefly updated reporters on the status of their challenge in the Mississippi GOP runoff election. Tyner responded to a question about the 6,700 vote margin between McDaniel and incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and was confident of there would be a new election based on MS state law.
 (ineligible voters). However, I would be surprised if we don't find 6,700. It's very easy to see the Mississippi law holds that if there's the difference between the Cochran camp and our camp -- that vote difference -- if there's that many ineligible voters, then there's automatically a new election.
Catherine Englebrecht, from True the Vote, also seems to be positive that McDaniel will prevail. But is the state's voting law on McDaniel's side in such a cut and dried manner as his attorney states? Not so fast says a Mississippi law professor who spoke to the Washington Post.
We spoke with Matt Steffey, professor of law at the Mississippi College School of Law, to see if he agreed with Tyner's assessment of what will happen next and, in case we didn't already give it away, he didn't. "He uses the word automatically, and I think that's a very optimistic and self-serving reading of the law," Steffey told us by phone. "I don't think the cases can be fairly interpreted to say that if they come up with 6,700 illegal votes and can demonstrate that they're illegal -- it's an overstatement of the law to say that it automatically demands a recount."

Who would have thought that the Mississippi GOP Senate Primary race would be more exciting and last longer than the World Cup soccer tournament? Well, it's happening. You may recall that allegations surfaced that incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) supporters engaged in flagrant race-baiting tactics against Cochran's June 24 runoff opponent -- State Sen. Chris McDaniel. These vicious racial attacks were used by a third party SuperPAC to bash McDaniel's conservative supporters in order to gin up support by traditional Democratic African-American voters and have them vote for Cochran in the runoff.
Crushing the Tea Party was the goal of the Republican Party, even if it came at a “staggering price.” Crushing supporters of expanding government and a system of pork barrel politics, not such a priority. So remind me again, why am I a Republican? Because it beats being a Democrat? When the Republican Party establishment needs Democratic voters looking for more government and more pork to win Republican primaries, that’s not a good enough excuse anymore.
These first round of allegations about race-baiting campaign ads were bad enough. But the news just seems to get worse each day for the Cochran camp and his supporters. The latest blockbuster allegation: Cochran's campaign allegedly gave cash to an African-American preacher so he could literally buy votes for the Senator in the runoff.

The Daily Mail has obtained three racially-charged radio ads placed by organizations that worked to help incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) stage his come from behind run-off victory this week.
[The ads] claimed that supporters of conservative McDaniel had connections to the Ku Klux Klan and that McDaniel had a 'racist agenda.' They also warned that black Democrats 'could lose food stamps, housing assistance, student loans, early breakfast and lunch programs and disaster assistance' if he were to become the Republican U.S. Senate nominee. 'Vote against the tea party. Vote Thad Cochran,' one ad said. 'If the tea party, with their racist ideas, win, we will be sent back to the '50s and '60s.'

What a long, strange trip it's been. Click here for our prior coverage of this race.

Tomorrow Mississippi decides which Republican will face off against Democratic Challenger, Travis Childers, in the bid for a coveted U.S. Senate seat. Easily one of the most bizarre primary elections I've witnessed, the final campaign pushes have produced more oddities. Yes, more. 

McCain encourages vets to support Cochran

Earlier today at a rally for Cochran at the War Memorial auditorium in Jackson, Senator McCain appeared to stump for Cochran. According to The State, "I call on my fellow veterans, I call on my fellow service members to send Thad Cochran, a good and decent and honorable senator, back to the United States Senate," McCain pleaded. This follows Senator McCain's 2008 criticisms of Senator Cochran on Meet the Press:
We all know as much as I love Thad Cochran, he's an appropriator and I have fought him hard time after time after time on these pork barrel projects he's been famous for, many of which in my view have been harmful to the economy and harmful to our environment. We've had strong words from time to time about pork barrel spending. He's one of the great pork barrelers and he's very proud of that.
Emphasis mine, because well, that's the money line. You can watch McCain's 2008 remarks here:

Poll released this weekend shows McDaniel lead growing

Chism Strategies released a poll Saturday that shows McDaniel with a 52-44 lead over Cochran with 4% undecided. As UPI reports:

The Mississippi Republican Senate primary is just one bizarre event after another. The nursing home photo shoot, the late night courthouse lock-in, and now two really, really bizarre statements by Thad Cochran. First, he joked (or was it a joke?) about doing indecent acts to animals as a kid.  Mark Levin questioned whether Cochran was "all there": Second, Cochran was interviewed and was unaware that Eric Cantor lost. The interview was published today but apparently took place Thursday:

In the ever bizarre Mississippi Republican Senate Primary, three people were locked into the Courthouse where the primary ballots had been counted after hours. The three claimed they had entered through an open side door. The ballots themselves were locked in an inaccessible vault, and never in danger. The incident dominated the news cycle for about 48 hours because one of the three was a coalition coordinator for the campaign of Chris McDaniel. The Sheriff's department investigated, and determined that no crime was committed, as we wrote in Chris McDaniel courthouse break-in “scandal” is a nothingburger, quoting an MSNBC report:
“Based on our findings and subsequent conclusion, there is no reason to believe that the three individuals engaged in any criminal activity nor do we believe any laws were broken,” a statement by the Hinds County Sheriff’s office read on Thursday. According to the sheriff’s office, the three McDaniel supporters gained access to the courthouse through an employees-only side door that was not meant to be open. Once it closed behind them, they found themselves trapped and searched the building in hopes of finding an employee who could help them leave. They never had access to any ballot boxes, which were in a secure locked area, the sheriff’s office said.
Okay, case investigated and closed, right? No. Then a county supervisor asked the Hinds County District Attorney to investigate anyway, and the DA agreed, as reported in the Clarion-Ledger:

I continue to hope that there will be a complete and total resolution of who did what and who did or did not coordinate it, as to the taping of Thad Cochran's wife in a nursing home. As of this writing, there is no publicly available information that the campaign of Chris McDaniel was involved. Because the Cochran campaign deliberately delayed going to authorities for weeks, the issue was not completely put to bed by the time of the June 3 primary. That uncertainty -- even if completely speculative -- continues to fuel pro-Cochran messaging, suggesting concern that there may be a shoe to drop after the runoff. In that regard, when am I going to get an answer to my question, asked repeatedly since the taping scandal broke, What did the @NRSC know, and when did it know it?. (Please ReTweet) I may have to escalate my Twitter campaign to get an answer if none is forthcoming soon. Yesterday a "scandal" broke that a McDaniel campaign coordinator and two others were locked in the courthouse after hours on election night (actually after midnight) where the ballots were counted.   This led to all sorts of accusations by Haley Barbour and the Cochran campaign supporters that there was criminal activity.

UPDATE -- Chris McDaniel won by less than 1% of the vote, but didn't break 50% so there will be a runoff election on June 24. ------------ The key race we are watching is the Mississippi Republican Senate Primary between incumbent Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel.  Polls close at 7 p.m. Central. The race has been marked by a bizarre scandal of McDaniel supporters taping Cochran's wife in a nursing home.  Because the Cochran campaign waited at least two weeks to go to authorities, the scandal broke relatively close to the election.  We don't know what other shoes -- if any -- might drop.  We also don't know if the McDaniel campaign will be completely exonerated; as of now there is no evidence linking it to the taping.  I also never got an answer to the question, What did the @NRSC know, and when did it know it? We will post results as soon as meaningful numbers come in, so refresh your screen every 5 minutes or so. If not one gets 50%, there will be a runoff held June 24. You can follow the Twitter feed below:

If it turns out that the campaign of Chris McDaniel was involved in the taping of Thad Cochran's wife in a nursing home, then it really doesn't matter who knew what when. The damage would be, and should be, a game changer. As of this writing, though, the proof either is not there or has not been made public. At most there is a cloud of suspicion because the alleged perpetrators were supporters and/or volunteers and/or prior acquaintances of McDaniel or the campaign. But if it turns out either that we don't get the answer until after the June 3 primary, or that the McDaniel campaign was not involved, then the fact that the story broke so close to the election is important. We know one of the reasons the story broke so late -- the Cochran campaign has admitted waiting at least two weeks to inform authorities. We don't know exactly how many weeks beyond two weeks. That pushed the story closer to the election which means we may not know the answer by June 3, which makes the seeming presumption of guilt based on the unknown potentially decisive. Erick Erickson suggested early on that there might have been collusion between the Cochran campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. I don't if that's true or not. One way to find out would be to find out when the NRSC, its staffers and strategists, found out about the taping. If there was collusion to delay the story until closer to the election, we should know that. If there was no collusion to delay the story, should know that too. And we should know it prior to the election. But as of this writing, I have not been able to get an answer to that question.

Supporters of Thad Cochran, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have all but convicted the campaign of Chris McDaniel in the possibly illegal -- but definitely disgusting -- photographing of Cochran's wife in a nursing home. While more evidence may, and likely will, come out, as of this writing there is no evidence made public that McDaniel's campaign itself was involved. If the facts are not known by the June 3 primary, the political presumption of guilt may be enough to sink the McDaniel campaign. What we know is that the guy who did the taping was a pro-Cochran blogger, but his lawyer denies it was part of a campaign effort. Based on tweets today from a court hearing by a local reporter, it appears that the blogger did it to make a name for himself. He succeeded in that, although perhaps not in the way he intended. Tweets Cochran wife taping hearing 5-22-2014 The big news today were three new arrests. A volunteer who contributed $500 to the McDaniel campaign, and is a leader of a local Tea Party group, was arrested for "conspiracy" with regard to the photographing.  He reportedly is a long-time Cochran opponent.  Two other people (for a total of three today) also were charged, one person for destroying evidence the other person for reasons not known as of this writing.

I haven't focused much on the Mississippi Republican Senate primary, in which Chris McDaniel is challenging Thad Cohran, except to have previously noted that NRSC race card play against challenger hurts us all. But the latest intrigue makes what came before look like child's play.  Ed Morrissey and Allahpundit at Hot Air have background, but the story is fairly simple:  A pro-McDaniel blogger was caught sneaking into a nursing home where Cochran's wife was resident due to Alzheimers or some other form of dementia, and photographed her.  Very ugly stuff. Then things got even more strange when the Cochran campaign and NRSC suggested that McDaniel somehow might be involved, and that inconsistent statements as to how and when the McDaniel campaign found out about it were incriminating. Then, it turned out that the Cochran campaign itself knew about the break in but sat on it for two weeks before notifying authorities. The NRSC communications director who was tweeting with wild speculation about the McDaniel timeline has not, as of this writing, responded to my request as to when the NRSC found out about it. Erick Erickson thinks there's collusion between the Cochran campaign and NRSC to pin the blame, at least by innuendo, on McDaniels. The latest development is that the blogger's wife suggests in an interview that McDaniels, at least indirectly, was in on it:

I don't know much about Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Republican Senate primary. I also don't know much about Thad Cochran. I haven't studied the race, or taken a position. I don't back a challenger just for the sake of backing a challenger. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, however, backs an incumbent just for the sake of backing an incumbent. NRSC is, in Prof. Reynold's words, "an incumbent-protection club. That’s basically its job." Which means backing any Republican Senate incumbent, no matter how bad and no matter how good the challenger. That means Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey; Bob Bennett over Mike Lee, and so on. Brad Dayspring is the Communications Director and Strategist for NRSC. While his Twitter feed has the obligatory disclaimer that his tweets are his own, he does seem to use his Twitter feed as part of his NRSC mission. A tweet on April 3 by Dayspring about McDaniel accused McDaniel of "associat[ing] with white nationalists & segregationists" based on a linked story at Talking Points Memo. (H/t The Other McCain) The TPM story reported that McDaniel backed out of an event after it was revealed -- by a local pro-Cochran blog -- that one of the vendors displaying at the event was pro-segregation. That's it. No allegation that McDaniels himself was pro-segregation, or speaking at a pro-segregation event. Only that there was a vendor at the event. That's the sort of guilt by remote association we expect TPM and others to use against Republicans. Robert Stacy McCain, who has an extensive write up on it, correctly states:
The attempt to turn this into a scandal is like saying that if a candidate campaigns at a county fair, he thereby endorses every rip-off carnival game at the fair.
It's not surprising that NBC picked up on it, which Dayspring also tweeted out, asserting that McDaniel was not vetted: