Sam R. Hall: Senate Race Too Close to Call

Sam R. Hall:Senate race too close to call: Clarion Ledger

Here’s how I see it: Incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran has the slightest lead over GOP primary challenger Chris McDaniel, but the state senator from Ellisville has momentum that could send Mississippi’s senior senator into retirement.

Two independent polls released Friday show similar findings:

• The race is tight, with neither candidate having a discernible lead.

• Cochran is under 50 percent, and that’s bad news for an incumbent.

• McDaniel has upward momentum, even though the nursing home photo scandal has slowed it somewhat.

Harper Polling conducted the first survey released. Harper is a Republican firm that has done polling on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee earlier in the election. Its survey showed Cochran leading 45 to 40 percent, with 15 percent of likely GOP primary voters undecided. The margin of error, however, is 4 points, which means Cochran’s lead could be as small as 1 percentage point (or as large as 9 percentage points). The major problem with this poll is that it skews a bit older. Some have criticized it for not including enough respondents from the Hattiesburg market — McDaniel’s home territory — but that doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue. Either way, the poll probably favors Cochran slightly, which makes me think the margin is tighter than the results show.

Chism Strategies, a Democratic polling firm, conducted the second survey. Brad Chism bases his operation out of Mississippi, but he has done extensive work across the country. While he says he is currently not working for any candidate, he did serve in 2008 and 2010 as a consultant to former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers — the likely Democratic opponent of the GOP primary winner. Chism’s poll has McDaniel ahead 46.4 to 44.3 percent with a margin of error of 3.4 percent. This is a statistical dead heat; however, the poll is heavily weighted toward voters age 66 or older, which is a clear advantage toward Cochran.

The rub with these polls — with any poll — is that despite surveying only likely voters, it is impossible to predict what will drive higher turnout among irregular and first-time voters or what will cause large chunks of likely voters to stay home. In my opinion, the nursing home scandal could be key.

In discussing the impact of the scandal surrounding a 28-year-old blogger and McDaniel supporter sneaking into a nursing home and taking photographs of Cochran’s bedridden wife, my opinion has been this: It seems that the scandal has ignited McDaniel’s base, which could really drive turnout in his favor.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but follow me for a second.

McDaniel’s base seems genuinely angry because it sincerely believes the Cochran camp sandbagged McDaniel by waiting three weeks to tell authorities. It also thinks Cochran using the scandal in TV ads against McDaniel — who has not been implicated — is as distasteful as someone sneaking and taking photos of Rose Cochran.

On the other hand, Cochran’s base does not seem as excited about the race. Those who support Cochran think he’s done a good job and believe he should keep doing it, and they’ve never had to worry about whether or not “Thad” would win. He always wins. So while both polls show that the scandal has hurt McDaniel’s momentum, it’s done little to move undecideds to Cochran.

Ironically, neither candidate has a statewide network designed to push voters to the polls. You wouldn’t expect it from McDaniel, only a state senator. However, that Cochran doesn’t have one shows his vulnerability. He will rely on the networks of others, in particular Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee, Gregg Harper and — to an extent — Steven Palazzo. (The latter has a credible primary threat in Gene Taylor, so his focus must remain on his race.) Bryant and Harper have two of the best networks in the state, and that should bode well for Cochran — even though a number of key Bryant supporters are working for McDaniel.

As for McDaniel, he has cobbled together a network of tea party activists and younger elected officials across the state. While he has excitement and momentum, McDaniel lacks a unified get-out-the-vote apparatus and doesn’t have the benefit of “borrowing” one from supporters. His hard-core supporters will brave rain, sleet, snow and apocalyptic destruction to vote for McDaniel, but will they bring enough friends with them to put him over the top?

Party Chairmen Catching Hell From Base Over #MSSenate14

Democratic Chairman Rickey Cole (L) and GOP Chairman Joe Nosef (R) Taken by MPB Online

By: Mike Biggs

The role of state party chairman has evolved over the past 20 years into more than that of a symbolic figurehead rallying the party faithful. The growing partisan divide coupled with the diminishing need for a strong centralized state party and the rise of super PACs via Citizens United has forced state parties to play more active roles in what used to be neutralized party primaries.

The Mississippi senate race is shaping up to be the last stand for the Tea Party and they’re not going down without a fight. Republicans are split between longtime Sen. Thad Cochran and Tea Party darling and state senator, Chris McDaniel. Quiet as it’s been kept there is also a primary on the Democratic side between former congressman Travis Childers and former Republican congressional candidate Bill Marcy.

Depending on whose polling you look at the race is either Cochran’s, McDaniels’ or Childers’ to loose. Thus, herein lies the problem.

Clearly the MSGOP is scared to death of McDaniel becoming the Republican nominee because of the likelihood it creates a path to victory for the preferred Democratic nominee. In the age of Todd Akin and Richard Murdock, a Chris McDaniel win would automatically put Mississippi into the toss up column and give national and state Democrats an opportunity that otherwise would be nonexistent.

Over on Congress Street, a similar dynamic is playing out. Some party faithful sought unsuccessfully to block Republican Bill Marcy from being certified to run as a Democrat for the US Senate but a vote by the party’s elections subcommittee thwarted that. Many Democrats, including Chairman Rickey Cole, make no qualms about who the Democratic nominee should and will be. Congressman Childers recently spoke before a gathering of the party’s executive committee in addition to the recent Young Democrats of Mississippi convention held last weekend in Rankin County.

While many Democrats are unhappy with Childers over votes he took as a northeast Mississippi congressman, he remains the party’s best shot against the eventual GOP nominee. Nosef made waves recently when he asked Chris McDaniel to clarify his affiliation with Pace Confederate Depot. PCD identifies itself as a dealer in Confederate, Tea Party, and White Pride Merchandise and is located in Baldwyn, Mississippi. This and the reference on MSNBC’s Chris Matthews show last week has led the Mississippi Tea Party to call for Nosef’s immediate resignation.

In a press release, MS Tea Party President, Laura van Overshelde, said the following “The MS Tea Party also calls on Joe Nosef to rescind his comments on the Paul Gallo Show last week in which he insinuated that Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Mississippi Chris McDaniel might cost the GOP a senate seat in the general election. It is inappropriate for Nosef to make such claims given his role as Chairman of the MS GOP. Accordingly, Joe Nosef should resign from his position as Chairman of the MS GOP effective immediately.”

Nosef responded saying “Anyone who has paid close attention to our US senate primary knows that I’ve not only stayed neutral with regard to the candidates but also worked relentlessly against efforts to divide our party.”

Cole, seems to be a better cat herder than Nosef. To date, he has seemingly coalesced the varying Democratic Party factions behind Travis Childers. A master orator, Cole has silenced critics, squashed detractors and forced the “armchair quarterbacks” to put up or shut up. Childers will undoubtedly be the Democratic nominee and will have the full weight of the state Democratic Party machine behind him, as he does now. In the 4th congressional district, the political epicenter of the 2014 cycle, Chairman Renick Taylor sounded a very optimistic tone. “I think we’re going to have an active and robust primary and I don’t think we will have a runoff”. Renick went on to say “A heavy turnout in the Democratic primary will be seen as a sign of strength by the DSCC and will bring resources into the state for our candidates”.

A telling sign will be the first quarter FEC reports that are due out today. Only Sen. Thad Cochran has released his totals raising a whopping $1.7 million dollars during the quarter. McDaniel, Childers and Marcy have yet to release their numbers.

Twas’ A Month Before Qualifying: With a Mississippi Flavor

By: Mike Biggs

Twas’ a month before qualifying, all across the Magnolia State, Candidates have been fretting, whether to jump into the race. Pickering was pondering and Hosemann made known, That he was ready to go to Washington if Thad came home!

The Democrats wanted in on the upper chamber chatter, So in came Childers hinting he was ready to climb that ladder. Away in the Free State of Jones, a native son never blinked, For Chris was ready for Cochran, even ready to throw the kitchen sink!

Thompson, Harper, Nunnelee and Palazzo all seem safe, They will likely only see sacrificial lambs try and give them a race. But wait, Palin, DeMint and Heritage can still shake things up you see. They’ve got their arrows aimed at Republicans who refuse to drink the TEA.

The Tea Party may not be the only spoiler in town, For Marcy is ready to try on the Democratic sash and crown. Interesting dynamics keeps the political pendulum swinging, While sherrifs, supervisors and coroners phones keep a’ ringing. It’s Nosef or White or Tate or Phil, persuading the official to swallow the GOP pill.

State Democrats are active and out convincing too, Project 1776 is working as it goes into year two. House Dems have set their sights back on the speaker’s gavel, They’ll have rough terrain to defend if they can manage not to unravel.

So on Moak, Gunn, Whittington and Kenny Wayne, This upcoming session and election cycle is sure to be full of games. There’s one thing that makes this madness all worthwhile, And that’s seeing my friend Presley, dosey doe’n with the Carolina crowd. So to all to whom such a closure evokes fear, The PULSE wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Senators File Amicus Brief Challenging Health Care Reform

Mississippi Business Journal: Senators file amicus brief challenging health care reform

U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss) are among 43 Senators who have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a multi-state legal challenge to a federal mandate that individuals must purchase health insurance.

The amicus brief was filed with the Supreme Court Monday in support of a suit filed by 26 states against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)

“I did not support the healthcare reform law for a number of reasons, including its costs and mandates. The requirement that individuals must buy health insurance is, in my view, an unwarranted intrusion of the federal government into people’s lives,” Cochran said.

Sen. Thad Cochran’s Former Aide Faces Jail for Parole Violation

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Clarion Ledger: Sen. Thad Cochran’s former aide faces jail for parole violation

A former aide to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran convicted in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal is facing 10 weekends in jail after bringing a steak knife to a halfway house.

Ann Copland’s attorney, Drewry Hutcheson Jr., said in a telephone interview that his client didn’t mean to bring a weapon into the facility where she was ordered to spend 75 days on a corruption charge.

Copeland pleaded guilty three years ago to swapping legislative favors for more than $25,000 in event tickets and restaurant meals from Abramoff’s firm, one of 21 people convicted in the scandal.