Poll: Sen. Thad Cochran in Dead Heat With Tea Party Rival

Image: Poll: Sen. Thad Cochran in Dead Heat With Tea Party Rival Sen. Thad Cochran, left, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel

Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 06:44 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Veteran Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is in a dead heat with his tea party-backed GOP primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a new poll by Gravis Marketing shows.

The Dec. 13 survey taken for the conservative publication Human Events showed both men polling 40 percent, with 20 percent undecided.

Cochran, who served three terms in the House before being elected to the Senate, is seen as vulnerable to a primary challenge, and his poll numbers put him in a weak starting position against McDaniel, The Hill reported.  Meanwhile, McDaniel has nabbed the endorsements of influential conservative groups including Club for Growth, The Hill noted.

"Overall, the results indicate that Senator Cochran is in a tight spot," Doug Kaplan, president of Gravis Marketing — a Republican-leaning polling firm in Florida — said in an analysis on the Human Events website.

"Cochran is virtually tied with McDaniel, and he is again under the 50 percent threshold when running in a generic run against a tea party candidate," he said. "Cochran polled only 45 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for the generic tea party candidate."

Though the 76-year-old Cochran has the support of Mississippi’s GOP establishment, he’s still in for "the toughest race of his career," political observer Jennifer Duffy has told Gannett’s Washington bureau.

"What McDaniel did is kind of challenged his political manhood," she said. "He sort of dared him... Can Cochran walk away from a challenge like that?"

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