The Tea Party Vs. The Establishment In Mississippi: McDaniel vs. Cochran


It’s rainy on the Mississippi gulf coast but it’s not the weather that’s the primary cause of the dreariness here. I’m here because the political narrative is that it’s the Tea Parties last stand against the establishment. After driving more than 25 hours I arrived in Tunica only to find the hotels filled because of a major power outage. Whatever weather had caused the outage was nowhere to be seen but their wasn’t a room to be found so it was on the next city.

In my sleep deprived state I drove around quickly losing count of the number of pawnshops and casinos. Maybe it was just me but it seemed like you’d be hard pressed to find yourself more than 10 miles from a Waffle House anywhere in the state.

The Senate race here features rising star Chris McDaniel squaring off against Senator Thad Cochran whose spent more than fifty years in Washington. While researching Cochran’s voting record in the Senate it takes me back to before I was born. He’s been around so long he helped Jimmy Carter start the Department of Education. He doesn’t seem like a terrible guy and his voting record isn’t terrible but at 76 he is diminished. Rarely is the Senator seen speaking without reading directly from a piece of paper and he refuses to debate his much younger opponent. The consensus here is that the Senator clearly lacks the mental sharpness for a debate format.

Chris McDaniel is running to join the Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz coalition in the Senate. He’s well versed in fiscal and monetary policy and he has the energy to be a champion for the limited government agenda. He is well spoken and says all the right things to appeal to those of us concerned about our runaway government.

From my perspective it’s an obvious choice. Our country is facing so many dangerous and difficult challenges that we need every Senator to be at the top of their game and at 76 Senator Cochran peaked decades ago. The polling shows McDaniel closing a huge lead (nearly 18 points) to take a small lead (4 points) only to give up some ground and again find himself trailing (5 points). The last poll seemed to over sample in Cochran’s strongholds and under sample where Chris McDaniel is doing well. For what it’s worth my sense on the ground gives the edge to McDaniel.

The pawnshops bother me because it means that people rely on them for credit. Pawnshops primary business isn’t buying and reselling goods, it’s making collateral loans at high interest rates. People are paying huge interest rates to keep their lives stumbling along while our government provides a handful of banks unlimited money nearly interest free, it’s disgusting. As usual the political discussion is focused on salacious issues involving Senator Cochran and his relationship with one of his senior staffers and the distasteful overreaction by some local bloggers, who ended up getting arrested for taking pictures of the Senators wife in a nursing home.

As I traverse the state I keep running into Matt Boyle one of the lead writers at Breitbart. Matt’s been breaking news on the race in Mississippi and his reporting stands in stark contrast against much of the local media who treat the incumbent Senator with kid gloves. Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum both made appearances over the weekend.

Palin spoke at a rally in Ellisville where an estimated 2,000 showed up to hear the Governor speak. Palin continues to ignite the conservative grassroots, attracting larger and more enthusiastic crowds than anyone considered as “serious” contenders for the Republican nomination in 2016. Over the years I’ve seen Palin speak live dozens of times and I’ve never seen someone get more positive reactions from crowds, people leave genuinely inspired, it’s amazing to witness.

The election is on Tuesday and the loose confederation of groups that identify as Tea Party are in desperate need of a victory. Fundraising and morale are down and big money being spent by Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce the movement is struggling to find victories and momentum. The activists who will knock on doors, man phone banks, and contribute financially are tired after years of securing underdog victories against better funded and more experienced competition. After most of the groups went “all-in” in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell and got throttled the movement is clearly showing signs of fatigue.

I’m an optimist so I’m predicting McDaniel by 6 but I guess I’ll have some more to say in my next column. It will also include my meeting with Tony the Tiger who had just fought off a bunch of Birkenstock wearing hippies, PETA, and the state government in Louisiana.

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