One Mississippi, Two Mississippi: Every Vote Counts, at $40 Per

Chris McDaniel, Republican candidate for Mississippi Senate, speaks with an employee of Truhitt Service Center in Union, Miss., on May 29, 2014.

Photograph by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Chris McDaniel, Republican candidate for Mississippi Senate, speaks with an employee of Truhitt Service Center in Union, Miss., on May 29, 2014.

Updated at 4:05 pm EDT

Down in Mississippi, Sen. Thad Cochran’s hopes of winning a seventh term are shifting to a June 24 runoff race featuring an emboldened challenger.

The Tea Party-backed challenger in the Republican Party’s primary election, Chris McDaniel, was holding 49.4 percent of the vote this afternoon — with 99 percent counted and four precincts still out. He was holding Cochran, first elected in 1978, to 49 percent of the vote at the latest count — shy of the 50 percent needed to avert a runoff between the two.

The difference between the two: 1,356 votes at the last official AP tally.

Stuart Stevens’ prediction: a run-off:

One low-wattage candidate, Thomas Carey, was holding 4,823 votes of his own — just 1.5 percent — possibly the ultimate denier of a 50-percent finisher when all the votes were counted, and recounted. John McCormick reports.

The ratio of money likely to flow into any runoff to the roughly 4,800 votes holding two front-runners from victory could be expressed in orders of magnitude.

The Associated Press reports that the contest already is running at more than $40 per vote — with at least $12.4 million spent on the campaign and just over 300,000 ballots cast yesterday. By comparison, the AP’s Bill Barrow notes, the cost of the 2012 presidential contest, which Republican Mitt Romney won in Mississippi, ran at $17.27 per general election ballot.

Political strategist Stevens, a survivor of the Romney campaign and Mississipian, was touting a message for the Tea Party:

The final count in Mississippi today would probably pitch Cochran, 76, into a feverish three-week campaign for nomination for reelection — “three weeks to victory!” his campaign tweeted. McDaniel, 41, a state senator, said: “Victory is going to be ours, one way or the other.”

The outcome would become another test of the Republican Party establishment’s contest with the Tea Party, which has tipped toward the establishment so far this cycle. And the outside money that has flowed into this contest will only intensify in the remaining three weeks of a runoff.

“McDaniel’s supporters include the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Tea Party Express — all groups promoting limited government that have portrayed Cochran as a big-spending career politician,” Giroux notes.
Democrats are rooting for McDaniel, the sort of candidate they’d love to face in November — opening the perhaps slim possibility that the deep Red state could seat a Democrat in November. The Republican Party, for its part, will be hard-pressed to thwart the lawmaker who could become its nominee.

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