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Are ‘Democrats for Cochran’ out there?

When voter precincts open June 24 in the runoff between Republican senator Thad Cochran and his challenger Chris McDaniel, state Democrats, not Republicans, will have the toughest decision to make.

After a bruising campaign battle between incumbent GOP senator Thad Cochran and his Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel, most Republicans have already decided for whom they will vote.

Even though Democrats have chosen Travis Childers as their candidate in the general election, many Democrats are faced with another decision — whether to vote in the runoff to help decide who Childers will run against.

Ultimately, the question comes down to whether Democrats believe their Childers can beat McDaniel in the general election and what effect a McDaniel win will have on the state and national political landscape if the Tea Party candidate is victorious.

More than 84,000 Democrats voted in the primary Childers won with 74.2 percent of the vote. According to the law, those voters are ineligible to vote in the runoff.

Democrat voters who didn’t vote in the primary can vote in the Republican runoff and can influence who the GOP will have as their candidate for senator in November.

If the number of Mississippians who cast their ballot for Barack Obama is any indication, the potential influence over the election could be huge. More than half a million votes in Mississippi were cast for Obama — six times the number of Democrat voters who came to the polls earlier this month.

It is highly unlikely that that many Democrats will vote on June 24, but a small percentage of that group of untapped voters could have a big influence on the election.

If Cochran is looking for votes, a “Democrats for Cochran” campaign might be the place to go.

It wouldn’t be a hard case to make.

It has been since 1982 that the state has sent a Democrat senator to Washington when it re-elected John Stennis.

Most political analysts agree that even though a McDaniel win would give Childers the best chance of victory in November, the Democrats’ odds of winning is a long shot at best. Most pollsters have Mississippi sitting comfortably in the red column whether it is a Cochran or McDaniel win on June 24.

Cochran doesn’t talk about doing away will federal education funding and many of the other federal programs that Democrats value. His Tea Party challenger touts such proposals.

Cochran is a senior ranking republican, certain to have a bigger voice in Washington than McDaniel who would surely be ostracized by the Republican establishment if he wins.

But the more important issue that Democrats might consider is the effect a McDaniel win would have on the national political landscape. Given the surprise defeat of Eric Cantor in Virginia, a McDaniel win would continue to build momentum for the Tea Party. That is something Democrats definitely do not want.

My bet is the Cochran campaign is quietly pitching these arguments to state Democrats. The question is whether Democrats are willing to listen.

Either way, the decision Democrats make June 24 will be a gamble. It just depends on how lucky they feel.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.