Conservative supporters of Republican Chris McDaniel were up in arms Tuesday night after McDaniel lost in Mississippi's Republican Senate primary runoff election. These conservatives were particularly furious that incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran had sought Democratic votes to push him over the top.
McDaniel led the charge, in a speech that quickly became anything but a concession late Tuesday night. He pointedly refused to concede or even mention Cochran's name in the speech but charged his opponent and supporters had decided the primary through "the help of liberal Democrats."
"There’s something strange about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats," McDaniel said, after he was introduced by a supporter as "the Republican nominee" for Senate.
The conservative groups and others supporting McDaniel did not go as far as their preferred candidate, however. They acknowledged Cochran had come out on top, but they charged he did so at the expense of the party as a whole. Some threatened to leave the party. Others said establishment Republicans had lost support from their conservative base.
"This race was establishment versus Tea Party and when the GOP has to turn to Democrats to retain power, they have no principles," Amy Kremer, the former chair of the Tea Party Express and a supporter of McDaniel, told Business Insider. "If Cochran wins this race, the GOP establishment won, not with the support of the base, but by teaming up with Democrats. That means they have more in common with Dems than conservatives.
"Conservatives have principles and are tired of the GOP ruling class elite that tax and spend like Democrats. The GOP cannot win on their own, so what will they do in the general when they don't have the base and are running against Democrats? That is a losing ticket. Seems they didn't learn anything in 2012."
The old-school Cochran employed an unusual strategy in the runoff, courting black voters — the vast majority of whom are Democrats — and Democratic voters in general, who feared McDaniel would do damage if he emerged victorious in November.
It appears the strategy worked. In the 10 counties where Cochran's vote total improved most, blacks make up 69% or more of the population, according to FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten.
FreedomWorks, one of the conservative groups backing McDaniel, called Cochran's runoff strategy "disgraceful."
"If the only way the K Street wing of the GOP establishment can win is by courting Democrats to vote in GOP primaries, then we've already won," FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement. "Tonight is proof that the K Street establishment is intellectually bankrupt, and we are going to have to clean it up."
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