GOP Strategist: Cochran's Last-Minute Moves Won the Race

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2014 02:23 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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The gloves-off battle between Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, an establishment Republican, and his tea party challenger, Chris McDaniel, was reminiscent of a Hatfield and McCoys feud, with Cochran eking out the win.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell tells "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that Cochran, the underdog despite his 36-year incumbency, pulled out all the stops for a last-minute strategy change.

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In a three-week time period, Cochran called on "every political marker that everyone ever owed him from Brett Favre, to donors, etc.," O’Connell said. "He had to fine-tune his message, and instead of pandering to the base, he decided to attack to the middle and basically tout incumbency in the fact that he'd bring home the pork."

The Cochran camp "increased the voter universe" via "an archaic rule that allows Democrats who did not vote in the Democratic primary to be able to vote in the runoff primary, even on the GOP side. So hats off to him. I have to say this was an amazing thing."

Though McDaniel has yet to concede the election, Cochran won 1,800 more votes.

McDaniel and his camp are angry and in the interest of party unity, Cochran is going to have to use some "genteel" Southern charm to get his opponent on board with him,  O’Connell said.

"This is going to have to be a way where they say, 'Look Chris, there has got to be a way that your political career isn't over, and we can help you, but if we can't deliver this seat up in Washington for the Republicans in Mississippi, we're going to have major problems, and I know, Chris, at the end of the day, your love is for the state of Mississippi and not the Democratic Party,'" O’Connell said.

"I understand [McDaniel] thinks that this was underhanded, but politics is not a gentleman's game, and the rules were the rules."

Appearing with O’Connell was Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who weighed in on the chances of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney entering the race for the White House in 2016.

"There's sort of a buyer's remorse among Republicans that they didn't treat him more charitably," Carr said, noting that Romney is polling as the most favored GOP candidate in New Hampshire. This despite fellow Republican, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, stumbling a bit in his bid to unseat New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.

O’Connell noted that Romney, who ran in 2008 and 2012, remains steadfast that he is not running, though the decision likely hinges on how others in the Republican field fare over the coming months.

"The question here is going to be how much do the current GOP names out there falter?" O’Connell said. "Your Christies, your Cruzes, etc. If there is daylight out there, Mitt Romney is going to look for it, but at the end of the day, I still don't think he's going to run."

Also gearing up for 2016 is Vice President Joe Biden, whose recent statement that "protecting gay rights is the defining mark of a civilized society, and it must trump national cultures and social traditions" was a strategic move to "tack right of Hillary Clinton," according to O’Connell.

Not a wise move, according to O’Connell, who called Biden’s words "a bridge too far, particularly when we're not enforcing sex trafficking and women's rights and several other things."

He surmised that progressive liberals are "tolerant in thinking so long as you're thinking what they want you to think, and this is exactly the problem."

"Whether it's how they perceive social issues or how they perceive fiscal issues. At the end of the day, their way is the right way, and anyone who disagrees with them, based on religious views, etc., is wrong, and that is a very big problem, and we're now starting to see this with Barack Obama in his second term, and this is what I fear about a Hillary Clinton presidency. We’re going to have so many judges on the federal bench that they're just basically going to carry this out and not respect religious views and traditions."

Conversely, he offered, Republicans — whether they like it or not — must come to terms with the fact that Americans under age 40 strongly favor marriage equality.

"It's just killing us with voters under 40," he said. "They don't care if you have the cure for cancer. This is something that is very prevalent with people under 40, not just in the Democratic Party, within the Republican Party. The person who is best understanding this change in perception between those under 40 and over 40 is Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who I agree 100 percent with his view, and that is, 'I'm a traditional marriage person, but if the voters in my state vote for it, then I'm not going to stop it.' That's really where we're going."

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