Strategists Wikler, Bardella Spar Over Election Results' Meaning

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2014 08:18 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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A setback for a tea party hopeful in Mississippi and a squeaker for a veteran New York Democrat gave establishment Washington two big reasons to high-five itself after Tuesday's closely watched elections.

Whether the happy returns — for six-term Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and 22-term Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York's Harlem — were just or fair depended on which political strategist Newsmax TV's Ed Berliner turned to on "MidPoint" on Wednesday: Democrat Ben Wikler or Republican Kurt Bardella.

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Wikler noted the tea party fury greeting Cochran's narrow escape from insurgent Republican Chris McDaniel. Cochran asked for, and got, African American Democrats to cross over and vote in Tuesday's open runoff.

"To me, the most fascinating thing about what happened last night in Mississippi is that a Republican got a bunch of African American votes, and across the country conservatives are reacting with outrage," said Wikler.

"I would hope that conservatives would be excited to have African Americans voting for a Republican candidate," said Wikler. "That's not something that's happened very much in the last few years, and if the Republican Party wants to be a big-tent party, it's going to have to figure out how to appeal to these voters."

Bardella countered that the longtime incumbent and his establishment allies "used African American Democrats to manipulate the outcome of a Republican primary, and that's where the outrage comes from."

"If these were truly motivated voters who believed in their candidate, why didn’t they show up to vote the same way in the last primary a few weeks ago?" Bardella said of the Democratic crossover contingent in Tuesday's runoff.

Cochran, touting his seniority and ability to deliver federal money to Mississippians, had to submit to the runoff after failing to put away McDaniel or win an outright majority of votes in the party's June 3 primary.

"The turnout was more in a runoff than it was in the regularly scheduled primary . . . which is fairly unprecedented from a turnout standpoint," said Bardella. "If these people were passionate believers in Thad Cochran, they would've voted before, but they didn't."

Wikler compared Cochran's win to that of Rangel, and said the calculus in both races was made by constituents, not campaign strategists.

"Charlie Rangel got re-elected because he delivered for his constituents time and again, and that's the same thing that Thad Cochran has done," said Wikler.

"These African American voters [in Mississippi] weren't being used by someone; they were realizing that Thad Cochran was a better senator for them than McDaniel would be, and they came out to vote on that basis," said Wikler.

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