United States Senate election in Mississippi, 2014

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United States Senate election in Mississippi, 2014
← 2008 November 4, 2014 (2014-11-04) 2020 →
  CochranThad(R-MS).jpg Travischilders.jpg
Nominee Thad Cochran Travis Childers
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 378,481 239,439
Percentage 59.9% 37.9%

Mississippi Senate Election Results by County, 2014.svg
County results

U.S. Senator before election

Thad Cochran

Elected U.S. Senator

Thad Cochran

The 2014 United States Senate election in Mississippi took place on November 4, 2014. Incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran, first elected in 1978, who was seeking a seventh term,[1] won with 60% of the vote, defeating Democrat Travis Childers, a former Congressman, who received 38%.


Thad Cochran was first elected to the Senate with a plurality of the vote in a three-way race in 1978. He was re-elected with at least 61% of the vote in 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008.

Cochran was the last incumbent Senator up for re-election in 2014 to declare his plans as to whether he would run for re-election; that caused widespread speculation that he would retire.[2][3] Despite being urged to declare his intentions, Cochran said in August 2013, "I don’t have a fixed date. But [I will decide] by the end of the year. You don’t want to rush into these things."[2] On November 12, he announced that he would reveal his plans by the end of the month.[4] On December 6, it was confirmed that he would be running for re-election.[1]

Cochran's fundraising ability, powerful Senate committee assignments, and very high approval ratings meant that he was dubbed "unbeatable".[2] Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole said that "in the very likely event that he does [run], we don't foresee a major Democratic challenger emerging."[5] Had he chosen to retire, a "stampede" was predicted in the Republican primary[6] and Democrats believed that a "properly positioned" candidate could have been competitive in the general election.[2]

Republican primary[edit]

The United States Senate Republican primary election in Mississippi, 2014 took place on June 3, 2014. Incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who has served in the position since 1978, ran for re-election to a seventh term.[1] He is being challenged by State Senator Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party supporter, and Thomas Carey; for the Republican nomination. During the primary election, Senator Cochran and State Senator McDaniel received 49% and 49.5% of the vote respectively. Since no candidate received over 50%, there was a runoff to determine the Republican nominee on June 24, 2014.

Cochran's campaign invited Democrats to vote in the Republican primary and defeated McDaniel in the run-off election.[7][8] In addition, Cochran-affiliated super PACs used racially charged themes in their primary ads, particularly the super PAC "All Citizens for Mississippi", which was funded(according to these F.E.C. filings)[9][10] by a super PAC affiliated with Former Governor Haley Barbour.[11]

Background and Primary Campaign[edit]

Thad Cochran was first elected to the Senate with a plurality of the vote in a three-way race in 1978. He has been re-elected with at least 61% of the vote ever since, in 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008. Cochran's fundraising ability, powerful Senate committee assignments and very high approval ratings mean that he was dubbed "unbeatable".[2]

However, State Senator Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party supporter, declared his candidacy for the seat on October 17, 2013.[12] He was immediately endorsed by the Club for Growth and Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund. McDaniel was initially reported to have no chance of beating Cochran in the primary,[2] as summed up by the Jackson Free Press, who remarked that if McDaniel faced Cochran, it would be the "beginning of [the] end of [his] political career".[13] Republican lobbyist Henry Barbour, the nephew of former Governor Haley Barbour, said: "I think he will get his head handed to him, and that will be what he deserves. [But] it's a free country."[14] Rather, McDaniel was believed to have declared his candidacy in the hope that Cochran didn't run, so that he could get "first crack" at the support of Tea Party groups and donors ahead of a competitive primary.[13]

Although the race was initially considered uncompetitive, McDaniel proved to be a serious challenger. Polling showed the lead swinging between the two of them and it is considered to be a "50%-50% race".[15]

The race is considered to be a marquee establishment-versus-Tea Party fight and significant because Mississippi is the poorest state and Cochran's seniority and appropriating skills contrasts with the junior status of the rest of the state's congressional delegation.[16] McDaniel has been endorsed by politicians including Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum and organisations including Citizens United, Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Madison Project, National Association for Gun Rights, Senate Conservatives Fund and Tea Party Express. By contrast, the Republican establishment has rallied around Cochran, who has also been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life.

The race has been described as a "nasty" one,[17] full of "bizarre" twists.[18] McDaniel's campaign has attacked Cochran for being "an out-of-touch, big-spending Washington insider" and Cochran's has replied that "McDaniel’s voting record in the state Senate does not match his conservative rhetoric." Both sides have accused the other of distortions and outright lies.[19]

Cochran has run on his incumbency, seniority and the fact that he would become the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee if the Republicans took back control of the Senate.[20][21] In addition to ideological differences, the race has also highlighted geographic divides in the state Republican Party.[22][23]

Tea Party Blogger Scandal[edit]

A scandal emerged when a supporter of McDaniel allegedly entered a nursing home where Cochran's bedridden wife was living and took pictures of her.[17] He posted them as part of a video to his blog, intending to advance the rumour that Cochran is having affairs while his wife was receiving care.[19][24] Four people have been arrested in connection with the incident.[19]

The connection to the McDaniel campaign is in dispute. One of the arrested included McDaniel ally Mark Mayfield, who is the vice chairman of the state's Tea Party. McDaniel and his campaign have not yet been officially "cleared" of a connection to the incident, according to Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest.[25]

Race Card Scandal[edit]

External image
The Tea Party Intends To Prevent You From Voting. Several ads such as this one invoked or leveraged racist themes. Several ads of a similar nature were distributed via Twitter and resulted in a request for censure in front of the National GOP. Photo provided via The Hill (newspaper).[26][27]

A second scandal emerged during the primary where racially insensitive ads were used as a part of the campaign to help Cochran win, using such "code words" as "food stamps".[28][29] Charges first surfaced [30] that a small group of elderly Democrat Women activists calling themselves Citizens for Progress were behind the controversy, but later facts as well as money trails show [31] that money has exchanged hands to Citizens for Progress multiple times,[32] from Mississippi Conservatives PAC.

After the fallout of the primary election, Ed Martin, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, wrote an op-ed calling for the censure of Henry Barbour for his role in the funding [33] of race-based ads, as well as the censure of "any Republicans who were involved in the racist ads." [34] He also called to censure Barbour at an RNC summer meeting in Chicago.[35] Henry Barbour is the nephew of former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

Senator Ted Cruz appeared on the Mark Levin Show to discuss the Mississippi Primary. He called for an investigation,[36] saying that "the ads they ran were racially-charged false attacks".[37]

Primary Election Results[edit]

The presence of a third candidate, Thomas Carey, opened the possibility of neither Cochran nor McDaniel winning a majority.[17] When the votes were counted, this is exactly what occurred: no candidate won more than 50% of the vote, so a runoff election between McDaniel and Cochran was required, and was held on June 24, 2014.[38] A runoff was generally seen as a positive development for Chris McDaniel, who is seen as having an advantage.[39][40]

Republican primary results[41]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Chris McDaniel 157,733 49.5%
Republican Thad Cochran (Incumbent) 156,315 49.0%
Republican Thomas Carey 4,854 1.5%
Total votes 318,902 100.0%

Following the election, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office announced it was investigating three McDaniel supporters who were locked inside the local courthouse, where primary ballots were held, on election night.[42]

Runoff Election[edit]

The runoff was scheduled for June 24, 2014, exactly three weeks after the first primary election. Despite trailing in most of the polls,[43] Cochran won the race with 51% of the vote compared to McDaniel's 49%. McDaniel once again won big in his native Pine Belt and in the heavily populated suburban Memphis DeSoto County. Cochran, however, was able to get a surge in votes from African-Americans who took advantage of a mixed primary. Many credited Cochran's win to the increase in black voters in the runoff. Cochran won by a net 3,532 votes in the most Democratic, African-American precincts in Hinds County (largest county in the state, and home of Jackson). These precincts made up nearly half of Cochran's margin of victory[44]

Republican primary runoff results[45]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Thad Cochran (Incumbent) 194,932 51.00% +2.00%
Republican Chris McDaniel 187,265 49.00% -0.50%
Total votes 382,197 100.00%


Democratic primary[edit]

Former Congressman Travis Childers stated that he was interested in running, particularly if Thad Cochran retired.[63] With Cochran facing a competitive primary, Childers announced in February 2014 that he was running.[64] Childers won the Democratic primary with 74% of the vote.





Democratic primary results[72]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Travis Childers 63,548 73.9%
Democratic Bill Marcy 10,361 12.1%
Democratic William Compton 8,465 9.9%
Democratic Jonathan Rawl 3,492 4.1%
Total votes 85,866 100.0%

General election[edit]


Childers campaigning for Senate

The Democratic nominee, Travis Childers described himself as a "moderate to conservative" Democrat, highlighting his vote against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and his opposition to new gun control measures, abortion and same-sex marriage.[73]


Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
Cochran (R)
Childers (D)
Other Undecided
CBS News/NYT/YouGov October 16–23, 2014 654 ± 7% 50% 28% 2% 20%
CBS News/NYT/YouGov September 20–October 1, 2014 826 ± 4% 46% 35% 3% 16%
CBS News/NYT/YouGov August 18–September 2, 2014 976 ± 4% 46% 31% 9% 15%
CBS News/NYT/YouGov July 5–24, 2014 850 ± 5.7% 47% 32% 17% 5%
Public Policy Polling July 10–13, 2014 691 ± 3.7% 40% 24% 5%[74] 31%
41% 26% 33%
Rasmussen Reports June 25–26, 2014 750 ± 4% 46% 34% 10% 9%
Rasmussen Reports March 26–29, 2014 750 ± 4% 48% 31% 9% 12%
Public Policy Polling November 15–17, 2013 502 ± 4.4% 50% 33% 17%


Mississippi's US senate election, 2014[75]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Thad Cochran (Incumbent) 378,481 59.90% -1.54%
Democratic Travis Childers 239,439 37.89% -0.67%
Reform Shawn O'Hara 13,938 2.21% +2.21%
Total votes 631,858 100.00%
Republican hold Swing {{{swing}}}

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ Raju, Manu (May 20, 2013). "Thad Cochran: Too early on 2014". politico.com. 
  4. ^ Cahn, Emily (November 12, 2013). "Cochran To Reveal Future Plans By End of the Month". Roll Call. 
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  6. ^ a b "Speculation continues over Cochran’s seat in the U.S. Senate: If a Senate seat opens, expect a stampede". Mississippi PEP. July 23, 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  7. ^ Todd, Chuck (June 4, 2014). "Mississippi Runoff Bad News for Thad Cochran". NBCNews.com. New York City: NBCUniversal. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  8. ^ Burns, Alexander (24 June 2014). "COCHRAN WINS". Politico. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "REPORT OF RECEIPTS AND DISBURSEMENTS" (PDF). Federal Election Commission. July 15, 2014. 
  10. ^ "REPORT OF RECEIPTS AND DISBURSEMENTS" (PDF). Federal Election Commission. October 15, 2014. 
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  74. ^ a b Shawn O'Hara (Reform)
  75. ^ "Maine General Election 2014". Mississippi Secretary of State. 2014-11-04. Retrieved December 22, 2014. 

External links[edit]