By Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal
One of the most anticipated political decisions in recent Mississippi memory won’t come until the end of this year or early in the next.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi’s six-term Republican, declined Monday to expand on a statement last week deferring a decision on running for re-election until late in 2013 or early in 2014, when he will be up for another term.
Should he run and win the nomination, Cochran would stand for election for the seventh time in the November 2014 general election.
Cochran, a Pontotoc County native who now lists Oxford as home, told the Washington publication Roll Call that “I haven’t decided yet – too early” on whether to seek re-election. He said he would make a decision at “the end of the year or the beginning of the next year.”
That would leave a short window for any potential Cochran successors to plan a campaign and raise money if he were not to run again.
Cochran was elected to the Senate in 1978, the first Republican senator from Mississippi since post-Civil War reconstruction. He served in the House for the previous six years.
Mississippi State University political scientist Marty Wiseman, head of the Stennis Institute of Government, said he believes all the signs point to Cochran’s running again for a term that would place him among the longest-tenured senators.
“Everyone I know who has had private conversations with him feel that he is running,” Wiseman said Monday. “I was in Washington myself last week and in some meetings with the senator, and he has gotten a smile on his face. He is now the ranking member on Agriculture and still sits on Appropriations, which is about as good as it gets for a minority party member in the U.S. Senate.”
Wiseman said Cochran has maintained good relations across a long span in both parties, and treats colleagues with deference. That collegiality, Wiseman said, has always come back to Cochran with cooperation that pays off for Mississippi. “I have long said that Thad Cochran is the most unbeatable politician in Mississippi,” Wiseman commented.
Cochran’s re-election decision has been the subject of much political speculation, given that an open Senate seat – a rarity in Mississippi – would likely draw several current officeholders. Cochran succeeded James Eastland, who served continuously since the early 1940s.