Entering the final two weeks of the Mississippi primary, a pair of new polls show that challenger Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party supported state senator, has already moved ahead of veteran Sen. Thad Cochran in their Republican primary battle.
The Polling Company, in the field for the Citizens United Political Victory Fund (May 14-15; 505 likely Mississippi Republican primary voters) finds McDaniel ahead on a combined response of 43-39-3 percent over Sen. Cochran and realtor Tom Carey.
The McDaniel vote breaks down with 30 percent saying they will “definitely” vote for him, an additional 10 percent reporting they will “probably” back the challenger, and another three percent replying that they are “leaning” toward voting for him.
The senator’s numbers are similar. His “definite” percentage is 29; with seven percent “probably” voting for him; and another three percent recorded as “leaning” Cochran’s way. Therefore, the hard vote for both candidates is 30-29 percent in favor of McDaniel. Obviously, a veteran incumbent such as Sen. Cochran – originally elected to the Senate in 1978 after six years in the House – scoring only 29 percent on the committed vote question just two weeks before a nominating election is a serious sign of vulnerability.
The Tea Party Patriots’ poll confirms these trends. They were also polling during same period as the Citizens United organization. According to their GEB International survey (May 14; 600 likely Mississippi Republican primary voters), McDaniel holds a 43-36 percent advantage over the senator. In this case, Cochran records a 27 percent “hard re-elect” score, similar to The Polling Company’s “definite vote” classification, while 34 percent say they are committed to voting against him.
But a different story is arising that could have an effect upon the race. As the local Mississippi media is reporting, an individual allegedly gained unauthorized access to the senator’s wife’s nursing home room and photographed Rose Cochran, who is bed-ridden. She has been suffering with dementia since 2000, and her condition has significantly worsened. The McDaniel campaign expressed outrage over the incident, but now there are questions as to when the challenger’s manager, state Sen. Melanie Sojourner, knew about political blogger Clayton Kelly’s alleged illegal act. Kelly has been charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult. A preliminary hearing has been set for later this week. He remains jailed with a $100,000 bond against him.
The budding controversy surrounds the timing of Sojourner’s voice mail to Cochran campaign manager Kirk Sims, expressing concern for the senator and his family, which apparently came before news of Kelly’s arrest became public. The McDaniel campaign claims that Sojourner saw Kelly’s blog posting that included the pictures of Mrs. Cochran. The photos were soon removed from the Internet.
It is unlikely that the McDaniel campaign was behind this stunt. Their response has been appropriate, expressing sympathy while condemning Kelly’s alleged act, and there is little political gain they would have reaped for either organizing or even tacitly supporting such an insensitive and unethical move. Still, this is the type of story that the media won’t let die, meaning its after-effects may in some way affect the outcome of this close campaign.
It is obvious that we are now reaching a fever pitch in this Republican primary challenge campaign and the final 14 days will be action packed.