Poll: Cochran Controls Mississippi Senate Race

Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014 07:47 PM

By Jason Devaney

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A new poll suggests that Sen. Thad Cochran, who is running for a seventh term in Mississippi, holds an advantage over other conservatives in the race.

Harper Polling conducted interviews with 570 likely Republican voters in the Gulf state last week and found Cochran in control. He is favored 52 percent to 35 percent over tea party candidate and current state Sen. Chris McDaniel, his main challenger.

That finding seemed to pour cold water on the idea that Cochran was lagging in recent polls. McDaniel, however, has gained 7 percentage points on Cochran since December. The Clarion Ledger reports that the margin then was 54 percent to 31 percent in favor of Cochran.

Fifty-nine percent of voters surveyed said they approve of increasing spending on military bases in Mississippi, while 64 percent disapprove of earmarks in Congress. Further, 57 percent said they support the goals and ideals of the tea party — which, taken at face value, would seem to give McDaniel an advantage.

Cochran, 76, who served in the House from 1973 to 1978 before moving across the hall to the Senate, has the backing of GOP leaders, including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Many conservative groups, however, support McDaniel in his bid to unseat Cochran.

Earlier this year, it was reported that McDaniel was amassing a war chest. Both men are vying for the Republican nomination in the June 3 primary.

"All across Mississippi and all across the nation, we're seeing tremendous enthusiasm and excitement as grassroots conservative activists are uniting behind our campaign," McDaniel said in January.

"Conservatives are clamoring for new leaders in Washington who will fight to repeal Obamacare, rein in federal spending, and protect our traditional values. With such a groundswell of enthusiasm, I am confident we will succeed on June 3rd," he said.

Cochran and McDaniel have been trading political jabs in their respective advertising campaigns. Cochran faced tough opposition in the 1984 and 2008 general elections from Democrats William Winter and Erik R. Fleming, but has generally had a fairly easy time remaining in office.

But McDaniel could prove a difficult hurdle to navigate in the primary.

"Chris McDaniel is backed by powerful interests that Gov. Haley Barbour calls 'out-of-state phonies,'" a narrator says in a Cochran ad. "If Chris McDaniel won't do anything for Mississippi, why should Mississippians do anything for Chris McDaniel?"

In March, Cochran gained the endorsement of the National Rifle Association for his “excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues” and “vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment,” according to the Clarion Ledger.

If Cochran loses in the primary, it will mark the first time a Mississippi senator has lost a renomination bid since 1942.

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