Anger Rises at Both Mississippi GOP Candidate Scandals

Sunday, 01 Jun 2014 06:44 PM

By Greg Richter

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With both major Republican Senate candidates hit by scandal, undecided Mississippi primary voters tell pollsters they are equally disgusted by both.

Chism Strategies surveyed Mississippi voters on Thursday. They were asked how they were affected by reports that a campaign supporter of challenger Chris McDaniel took pictures of Sen. Thad Cochran's wife, who is in hospice care, and posted them online.

They also were asked how they felt about reports that Cochran has taken his female executive assistant to 42 countries at taxpayer expense.

McDaniel has denied any ties to the blogger who took photos of Cochran's wife. The blogger and two others have been arrested, and McDaniel has called for the prosecution of anyone involved.

According to police,  the purpose of the photos was to push allegations that Cochran is involved in an affair with his employee.

McDaniel, a tea party challenger, initially lost support when the photos appeared online, but has bounced back, Chism's poll indicates.

McDaniel was leading Cochran before the scandal broke, but was within the margin of error, Chism reports. McDaniel has since recovered that thin lead, but the race, with voting Tuesday, is too close to call, Chism said.

Sixty-seven percent of undecideds said the photo scandal was unlikely to affect whether they would vote for McDaniel, while 60 percent said they weren't likely to be affected by the story of Cochran and his assistant.

When asked to rank which of the two stories was worse, each story was ranked worse by 10 percent of undecideds, while 81 percent said both were equally bad.

The survey of all Republican likely voters showed McDaniel with 46.4 percent support to Cochran's 44.3 percent. Third candidate Thomas Carey had 1.4 percent support, and 7.9 percent are undecided.

Chism said that there was significant difference in support depending on age. The more younger voters turn out on Tuesday, the better it will be for challenger McDaniel.

Mississippi is an open primary state, meaning people who typically vote Democratic in general elections can vote in the Republican primary. With Mississippi's Democratic primary not heavily contested, a large Democratic vote in the GOP primary could affect the outcome.

The poll did not include likely Democratic voters, but Chism said strong Democratic crossover would likely help Cochran.

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