Cochran, who’s favored to win a seventh six-year term, won the runoff by 51-49 percent over state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party-aligned challenger who led the incumbent in a first-round ballot on June 3 while falling short of the majority of votes needed for an outright victory. For more about yesterday’s election, see this Bloomberg News story.
It’s rare for a Senate runoff to draw more participation than the first primary. According to the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the last time this happened was in Oklahoma in 1984.
One piece of Cochran’s strategy in the runoff was to court black voters, an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency. About 37 percent of Mississippi’s residents are African-American, the highest share among the 50 states.
An examination of the precinct-by-precinct election returns, which aren’t available yet, should help show to what extent Cochran’s comeback win was aided by black voters. Cochran also sought support from Republicans who didn’t vote in the first primary.
A comparison of the county-by-county returns in the June 3 primary and yesterday’s runoff indicates that Cochran registered his biggest percentage-vote improvement in heavily black counties.
In Hinds County, which includes the state capital of Jackson and is more than two-thirds black, turnout rose by 43 percent as Cochran’s vote share rose to 72 percent from 66 percent in the June 3 primary.
To get an idea of how important Hinds was to Cochran’s comeback win, consider the following:
- Cochran led by 6,373 votes in yesterday’s unofficial statewide count, compared with a 1,418-vote deficit to McDaniel in the official June 3 vote. So that’s a net shift of 7,791 votes in Cochran’s direction.
- In Hinds, Cochran led McDaniel by 10,965 votes, compared with a 5,649-vote win in that county on June 3. That’s a net shift of 5,316 votes in Cochran’s direction there.
- So the net shift favoring Cochran in Hinds (5,316 votes) alone accounted for 68 percent of the net shift favoring Cochran statewide (7,791 votes).
Hinds was one of nine counties where Cochran ran at least five percentage points ahead of his June 3 performance, according to a Political Capital analysis of the vote. Eight of the nine counties are black-majority, and the top six including Hinds are all at least two-thirds black.
In Jefferson County, which is located in southwestern Mississippi and is the state’s most heavily black county (85 percent), Cochran’s vote percentage rose to 74 percent from 55 percent three weeks earlier, a 19-point difference that marked Cochran’s biggest percentage-vote improvement among Mississippi’s 82 counties. Jefferson County’s turnout rose 94 percent to an unofficial 432 votes from an official 223 votes on June 3.
Cochran ran 13 points ahead of his June 3 performance in Claiborne County, which abuts Jefferson and is more than 84 percent black; 11 points better in Humphreys County in west-central Mississippi; and 10 points better in Holmes County, which abuts Humphreys and is about 83 percent black.
Those black-majority counties individually don’t have many Republican votes, and their populations pale in comparison to populous Hinds in and around Jackson. Taken together, though, they had a palpable cumulative benefit for Cochran.
Cochran won 61 percent of the vote, compared with 56 percent three weeks ago, in Yazoo County, a black-majority area north of Hinds that’s also the home base of Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor and Republican National Committee chairman who was among Cochran’s biggest supporters.
Cochran also cut into McDaniel’s margin in Forrest County in and around Hattiesburg, which includes the University of Southern Mississippi and is near McDaniel’s home county of Jones.
McDaniel ran ahead of his June 3 showing in some counties including DeSoto, a fast-growing area in northern Mississippi near Memphis, Tennessee, and Pearl River, near the Gulf Coast.
Click here for a detailed chart comparing the vote totals by county in the June 3 primary and yesterday’s runoff.