There are few political analysts in the U.S. and particularly in the South whose prognostications and informed analyses are more universally respected by Republicans and Democrats alike than those authored by Louisiana native Charlie Cook.
In addition to his own highly respected Cook Political Report, Cook is a political analyst for The National Journal and NBC. He has covered the majority of significant political races and has been no stranger to Mississippi politics. Cook’s shoes have red clay stains from Founder’s Square at the Neshoba County Fair and some sand from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Cook’s traveled from the Piney Woods to the Delta and has a solid network of sources in Mississippi. The best thing about Cook’s work is that he doesn’t particularly care if his work makes Democrats or Republicans happy or sad. Cook calls races as he sees them – and lets the chips fall.
The most recent edition of Cook’s Political Report outlines what many in Mississippi have believed have been the underlying dual dynamics of Mississippi’s contested Republican U.S. Senate primary between veteran U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel – first, that the Republican Party has a solid, credible chance to regain control of the U.S. Senate in the 2014 elections, and second, that it matters who the GOP nominee is in terms of keeping Mississippi securely in the Republican column in November.
After reviewing Cook’s latest ratings, The Washington Post reported: “There is some good news for Democrats in Cook’s new ratings. Georgia moved from “Lean Republican” to “Toss-up.” It’s one of Democrats’ only two realistic pickup opportunities this cycle, along with Kentucky. Mississippi moved from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.” The state is still a very good bet to stay in GOP hands, but if nominated, Cochran’s GOP primary challenger McDaniel might pose problems for his party in the general election against former congressman Travis Childers (D).”
The late columnist David Broder called Cook “perhaps the best non-partisan tracker of congressional races” and that praise was in keeping with Cook’s track record of successfully handicapping congressional races without regard to partisan loyalties.
So let’s review. Cook thinks Republicans have a real shot at retaking the U.S. Senate, which would elevate Cochran again to the position of chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Mississippians Cochran, the late U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis, and the late U.S. Rep. Jamie Whitten have all held the nation’s purse strings from Mississippi in those chairmanships because of the seniority Mississippi voters invested in them. The advantages those chairmanships have afforded Mississippi have been enormous.
In addition, Cook projects that Mississippi’s chance to contribute to what he sees as a solid chance for a GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate is greater with Cochran as the nominee against likely Democratic nominee former U.S. Rep Childers in November.
For many Mississippi Republicans who reject the negative attacks on both Cochran and McDaniel by third-party groups, the dynamics of the race comes down more to the issues that Cook is examining. For them, the race comes down to this: What’s the path of restoring Republican control of the U.S. Senate, and that achieved, how is Mississippi best positioned in a new Republican majority in the Senate?
While many Republicans won’t like the suggestion that Childers is a highly credible candidate for the Democrats in November, it’s clear that Cook is correct in assigning him that measure of political respect.
The political shorthand from Cook’s latest analysis of the Mississippi race is that the GOP can retake the U.S. Senate in 2014, but that the November matchups matter if that’s to be the case.
For Democrats and the GOP alike, Cook’s analysis is a no-nonsense take on a fascinating campaign.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at (601) 507-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the chief spokesman for Mississippi State University.