Incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran squeaked by with a win over his Tea Party opponent in Tuesday's primary runoff election for the Mississippi. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race in favor of the 36-year veteran of the Senate, despite his holding a lead of just a few thousand votes.
McDaniel, who beat Cochran by a very slim margin during June 3's primary, lead Cochran early on in the night, but lost his lead as more precincts began reporting. Even then, Cochran and McDaniel spent much of the night within 1 percentage point of each other.
McDaniel, who was introduced as the Republican nominee for Senate (as opposed to the Republican nominee bolstered by Democrats) said that "millions of Republicans feel like strangers in their own party," during his not-a-concession speech. "Let me say this, we fought, we had a dream, and the dream is still with us," McDaniel said. McDaniel condemned Cochran for "abandoning the conservative movement," and allowing the primary to be "decided by liberal Democrats!"
Instead of conceding, McDaniel implied that this wasn't the end of his run. "We are not prone to surrender, we Mississippians," he said, mentioning reports of "irregularities" at the polls. "Before this race is over we have to make absolutely certain the Republican primary was won by Republican voters ... There were literally dozens of irregularities reported all across this state." He didn't mention Cochran by name.
Mississippi election laws allow Democrats and Independents to vote in Republican primaries, provided they did not also vote in the Democratic primary. Cochran explicitly reached out to those voters, citing his record of bring government dollars to the state, as part of his runoff strategy.
The big surprise of the night was the increased voter turnout. Over 360,000 people voted in the runoff election, compared to 318,902 votes during June 3's primary. Members of the Tea Party were quick to credit's Cochran's controversial outreach to the state's black Democrats:
Congratulations are in order to the Mississippi Democratic Party.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) June 25, 2014
But as The New York Times' Nate Cohn pointed out Tuesday, the McDaniel-Cochran race was more likely to defy the conventional wisdom that voters don't show up for runoff elections. Cohn also noted that the increase in voter turnout wasn't primarily black voters.
This story is developing and has been updated.