Chris McDaniel appears determined to continue his sideshow in the U.S. Senate race, yet most Mississippians – some die-hard McDaniel supporters excepted, of course – are ready to move on.
McDaniel and his campaign have claimed rather boldly that incumbent Thad Cochran and his supporters “stole” the Republican runoff election from him. This is a serious accusation, and thus far McDaniel has laid out no detailed evidence to support it. To continue to make such charges without backing them up is, even in our hothouse political environment these days, highly irresponsible.
The only conceivable way that McDaniel’s threatened legal challenge of the June 24 runoff results – a 7,662-vote win by Cochran – would have any basis in the courts would be for him to prove that a huge number of people who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary then cast ballots in the Republican runoff. Those are the only people who would have been legally prohibited from voting that day.
So far, not surprisingly, numbers floated by the McDaniel camp are as much as five times higher than the illegal crossovers the Cochran campaign says it’s identified.
It is one thing for a candidate to check every detail of the results of a close election to make sure everything is in order. It is quite another to make the checking a righteous crusade that appears more rooted in political frustration and the inability to accept defeat than in any legal basis for overturning the vote.
McDaniel is touring the state complaining that Republican leaders “betrayed” conservatives by persuading Democrats, specifically African-American voters, to vote in the runoff for Cochran. While that may not be to McDaniel’s liking, as long as those voters didn’t vote in the June 3 Democratic primary, they had every legal right to be there under Mississippi law.
McDaniel has served as chairman of the state Senate Elections Committee, yet until now he has never evidenced any interest in closing party primaries or requiring people to register by party. In fact, he voted in a Democratic primary himself in 2003 when there was a Republican primary for governor, though he describes himself as a lifelong Republican.
We agree with those who say McDaniel might have had a chance to be a viable statewide candidate in the future had he graciously accepted defeat and vowed to continue promoting his principles, but this anger-driven effort to stay in the spotlight has diminished that prospect.
If he really believes he has a legal case, McDaniel needs to go to court. Otherwise, he should acknowledge that the race is now between Cochran and Democrat Travis Childers and finally bow out.