RNC Remains 'Hands Off' in Mississippi U.S. Senate Controversy

Saturday, 09 Aug 2014 12:59 PM

By John Gizzi

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Although state courts may still consider complaints launched by conservative Chris McDaniel over his narrow loss of the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Mississippi, the Republican National Committee left no doubt it would stay out of the controversy surrounding the narrow renomination of Sen. Thad Cochran in June 24 GOP runoff.

In terms of immediate developments, Missouri State GOP Chairman Ed Martin, the lone RNC member to take up McDaniel's complaints before the full committee, sat down and had what he called a "good conversation" with the fellow Republican leader who had been a target of his criticism: Mississippi's Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, who headed up a independent effort on behalf of Cochran in the recent clash with McDaniel.

At a "members only" breakfast of the 168-member RNC at the Westin Hotel here Thursday, Newsmax learned, the GOP leadership from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five territories opted to leave to the Magnolia State the claim by McDaniel that his defeat by Cochran was in violation of party rules and included racially-based attacks on the "tea party" (which strongly backed the insurgent McDaniel).

What was particularly dramatic was that, throughout the three-day summer conclave of GOP's ruling body, RNC members stuck to a policy urged at the breakfast by National Chairman Reince Priebus to keep comments on Mississippi "in the family."

"I may not like what they do in Mississippi, but it's none of my business," California's GOP National Committeeman Shawn Steel told Newsmax shortly after the closed-door meeting, "I have as much interest in what's going on in Mississippi as I do in what's going on in Nevada. Beyond that, I don't want to say any more."

New York State Chairman Ed Cox echoed Steel, saying: "I really can't comment. It was 'Members Only."

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, Martin said he had never met opponents McDaniel or Cochran, and had been upset by reports he read that supporters of Cochran had run independent TV spots aimed at black voters saying "the tea party is trying to keep you from voting.

"I don't mind a campaign saying Sen. Cochran's defeat would hurt largess coming into Mississippi or that colleges would lose federal funding. This is fine, even though I don't agree with those positions, because it is a discussion about policy that is at the heart of the Republican Party."

The ads on the tea party thwarting the ability of voters to exercise their rights, Martin said, "are different. Running those ads will not turn out well for us Republicans in the long run." (In discussing his strong feelings about the Mississippi race, the Missourian emphasized that he "is neither 'tea party' nor 'establishment'" and has been backed and criticized by both factions in the past).

With Martin making his complaints known in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner and suggesting a censure of Barbour, the Mississippian was given an opportunity to speak at the members-only session. Although no RNC member would go on the record with any specifics, several told us that Barbour stood firm in his defense of the ads and in trying to attract black voters who traditionally vote Democratic, to come out for Cochran in the Republican run-off.

"The McDaniel campaign made it clear they weren't interested in African Americans voting," Barbour told us, "Sen. Cochran won a spectacular victory by appealing to all 3 million Mississippians."

Noting that his own independent effort had made a substantial contribution to another independent effort headed by Bishop Ronnie Crudup of the New Horizons Church, a leader in Mississippi's black community, Barbour said: "I saw the [TV] commercials he ran with, I didn't have any problem with them."

The unusually large number of black voters coming over to vote for Cochran in the run-off, Barbour told us, was less about any ad and "more about the McDaniel campaign turning off the African American community."

He added that he felt it was "a good thing to have an open primary. It's like an 'open door policy,' to welcome people in."

Martin's motion to censure Barbour never truly came up for debate before the Rules Committee on Wednesday. According to at least two sources, the censure motion lacked someone to second it and thus move it on for debate and a vote.

The same sources told Newsmax that another motion to suspend the rules to open the way for discussion of a censure also died. At the "members only" session on Thursday, Martin spoke after Barbour. Both confirmed that they met for coffee in the hotel on Friday morning and had a positive session.

With national Republicans making it clear they are leaving any dispute over the Senate nomination in Mississippi up to Mississippians, state courts are almost sure to be the final venue in which McDaniel will make his case that people who previously voted in the Democratic primary came over to the Republican run-off to help Cochran in violation of state election law. State GOP Chairman Joe Nosef told us that any challenges to Cochran's certification as the GOP nominee would have to be filed in state court by Aug. 14.

"I'm surprised at the level of anger over this — not so much by Chris but by many of his supporters," said Nosef, whose wife is a cousin to McDaniel's wife, "At every turn, this whole thing has taken some most unexpected routes."

John Gizzi is the chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
 




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