Thad Cochran Stays Above Fray in Final Days of Bitter Miss. Primary

Image: Thad Cochran Stays Above Fray in Final Days of Bitter Miss. Primary

Thursday, 29 May 2014 11:46 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has less than a week until the end of an unusually bruising and personal GOP primary against tea party insurgent and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, whose campaign in recent weeks has been rocked by allegations that supporters broke into a nursing home to photograph Cochran's ailing wife for an ad implying the longtime senator was involved in an affair.

Though third-party backers of Cochran have issued their own ads hitting back, Cochran himself has taken the high road, refusing to mention the incident publicly. His handling of the matter has served to add to the stature of the popular 76-year old senator, affectionately known as Gentleman Thad, Politico reported.

Cochran has also made it a point of spending lots of time in the final weeks of the campaign interacting personally with voters, adding to his image that he cares deeply for Mississippi and the state's interests, according to Politico.

The personal and vicious nature of campaign ad scandal, according to Politico, has stunned both supporters and opponents. It may have also fatally damaged McDaniel's chances, while earning Cochran sympathy even among nonsupporters who felt the attack was beyond the pale.

Rep. Gregg Harper, one of Cochran's surrogates for the campaign, told Politico that undecided voters were "really offended."

"The event known universally as 'the nursing home incident' has overwhelmed the closing weeks of his race against McDaniel," Politico said.

"An already-harsh race has grown intensely personal. While Cochran isn't free and clear yet, McDaniel supporters fear that the sensational story has blocked the challenger from delivering a solid closing message, and perhaps curdled McDaniel's appeal among voters who might be inclined to support a more strident ideologue but like Cochran on a personal level," the magazine added.

The most recent poll before the scandal had McDaniel in the lead by 4 points in the runup to the June 3 primary, so the results of the contest will be telling about the impact the scandal had.

Cochran was elected to the Senate in 1978 after six years serving in the House.

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