Most of the interest in Mississippi this primary season will involve the Senate race. Before getting to that race, however, there will be two primary competitions in two of the three congressional districts held by Republicans. The first one is also the easy one- the 3rd Congressional District currently held by Gregg Harper. He is considered a mainstream or rank-and-file Republican by most pundits. The district is rated generally as safe for the GOP by the Cook Political Report and by this writer. Under ordinary conditions,one would at least consider a more conservative candidate in this district, especially considering the fact that the Democratic primary will feature four candidates and they are all considered somewhat weak. However, Harper's challenger will be Hardy Caraway, a relative unknown who ran and lost in 2000 and ran and lost another race for the state legislature. Given his losing record and relative lack of name recognition, this writer sees no reason not to endorse the reelection of Gregg Harper.
In the 4th,incumbent Steve Palazzo faces competition from four challengers, two of which are considered Tea Party activists. One- Tavish Kelly- neglects to mention any economic issues as key to Mississippi on his website instead focusing on social issues. Ron Vincent has probably been the most vocal opponent who has spoken out against Palazzo's record in Congress and some alleged ethical indiscretions involving his staff and use of that staff. Since the 4th is considered more Republican than the 3rd District, a more conservative GOP candidate would have a better chance here. The Democrats will likely field Trish Causey who has a name in the area, but mainly for the wrong reasons- she is an unabashed liberal progressive candidate (her words on her website). The fact is that the voters of the 4th may be dismayed by the rank-and-file status of Palazzo, but even more so by an unabashed progressive liberal. But, are they ready for a socially conservative activist or a Tea Party type? Which brings us to the fourth challenger- former Democrat-turned-Republican Gene Taylor. Palazzo defeated Taylor in the 2010 GOP wave. Prior to that,virtually every liberal organization and publication had Taylor rated the most conservative Democrat in the House or very well near the top. In fact, GovTrack rates only two other Democrats more conservative than Taylor. Although he lost his first bid to succeed Trent Lott in this district, he won a special election the following year despite the Democratic apparatus' non-support. After that, he won regularly with greater than 60% of the vote- a Democrat in a largely Republican district.
Mississippi uses the runoff system. This writer can see it coming down to Taylor versus Palazzo in such a scenario unless one or the other wins it outright on June 3rd. In either case, the district will likely remain in Republican hands. Whenever a politician switches parties, this writer perceives it with suspicion- is it a heart-felt change or political expediency a la Arlen Specter? Taylor lost to Palazzo in 2010- a great year for Republicans- by only three points in a race I predicted. At that time, one person from that district commented that if Taylor lost, then it would really be a bad year for Democrats because he was well-liked by his constituents. In short, Taylor could have remained a Democrat and launched a serious bid against Palazzo- a potential loss the GOP would not have accounted for to keep control of the House. The fact is that Taylor probably had more in common with the GOP during his tenure in Congress than he did with the Democratic Party. Although he voted for Pelosi as Speaker in 2007 and 2009, he had also openly stated that Ike Skelton of Missouri was his first choice. These votes may come back to haunt him in the primary. In any case, this writer does not believe that Taylor's party switch is political expediency. Going on a limb here,but this writer endorses the candidacy of Gene Taylor in the 4th Congressional District.
Now onto the real interest this primary day in Mississippi- the Senatorial race for the seat currently held by Republican Thad Cochran. Some observers were surprised by Cochran's announcement that he would seek another term in the Senate. In fact, this writer- based on his somewhat moderate voting record of late in the Senate- believed he was basically gearing up for retirement. Furthermore, there was a lag in fundraising that led some to believe that Cochran's heart was not in another run for the Senate. When considering this race, there is no doubt that Mississippi ranks among the red states. Hence, whoever the GOP candidate is starts with an advantage. However, that being said, there is always the possibility that a moderate Democrat could take this seat and the Democrats have bitten the bullet here and will most likely run former Congressman Travis Childers in the general election. Of course, he will first have to win his primary where he faces a somewhat problematic opponent in former Republican Bill Marcy.
Cochran's main opponent in the primary will be state senator Chris McDaniel who has gotten the attention of most conservative advocacy groups, including the brain trust here at Redstate. Before Cochran's announcement, McDaniel had already declared his candidacy. Because there is a third candidate and because there is a dog fight between Cochran and McDaniel, there is the outside possibility of a runoff three weeks later. How many votes Tom Carey draws- a relative unknown- will decide that matter.
Reading the website of McDaniel, one can find nothing wrong with his views from a conservative standpoint. Unlike other general election candidates who knocked off incumbents in the past, he does not come off as "too extreme." Conversely, looking at Cochran, Ontheissues has him rated as a hard-core conservative while GovTrack rates him a moderate Republican. The former site is based on his congressional voting record and also on his statements while the latter rating is based on bill sponsorships and voting records. Thus, Cochran represents the problem most conservatives have with candidates: they say one thing during the campaign season, then act and vote another way when they win elected office. This comes down to whether principle or practicality should dictate an endorsement here.
Although I believe that Cochran would likely win reelection should Childers be his general election opponent, this needs to be balanced against Cochran's demonstrated record and whether he is the best conservative fit for Mississippi. This writer believes him not to be that candidate. Furthermore, given McDaniel's state legislative record coupled with his stated views on the issues, one believes that he cannot be portrayed as "too extreme" for the Mississippi GOP electorate or general election electorate. One would hope he has learned the lessons of previous candidates who knocked off incumbents and avoids the liberal media traps and stick to the issues that truly concern the voters of Mississippi- the economy,taxes, jobs, Obamacare and energy.
In the end, because Cochran talked and voted so moderately during that period where there was reservations about another run for the Senate, one is led to believe that that was the real Thad Cochran in the Senate,not the campaigning Thad Cochran. On pure hypocrisy alone, one would be led to support McDaniel here. But, that is not the only reason. The electability of McDaniel also needs to be weighed and he comes out an overall positive in that area. Although it may be a tougher general election sell than an incumbent like Cochran, Mississippi is considered red enough to overcome those disadvantages. With these facts in mind,this writer supports and endorses the candidacy of Chris McDaniel to be the next Republican senator from Mississippi.