Depending on the order in which a pair of interviews with embattled Mississippi Thad Cochran were conducted, the longtime se either didn't know, or totally forgot about, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat on Tuesday.
The story of Cantor's loss is no doubt the biggest one to emerge out of this year's midterms, and is an unprecedented electoral upset in the history of Congress. It should have a particular resonance for Team Cochran. Cochran is an "establishment" Republican who is about to proceed to a run-off election against a conservative, Tea Party-backed challenger, who is running on a platform similar to that of the conservative, Tea Party-backed challenger to took out Cantor earlier this week. Cochran himself came in second in the first round of his primary against challenger Chris McDaniel, but Mississippi rules require the two to face off again in a runoff primary on June 24.
So, many were shocked to see Fox News's interview with Cochran where he appears to be completely unaware of Cantor's loss. According to Fox News, the interview was taped "two days after Eric Cantor’s primary loss received wide-spread national attention." It aired on Friday.
In the clip, the Fox News interviewer asked the senator about "what happened in Virginia the other day," adding, "does that concern you for your chances here in this runoff?” This is a perfectly reasonable question, given the resonance between the two races. But Cochran's response? “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What happened in Virginia?” The interviewer then explained he was referring to Cantor's loss, and Cochran again replied with a statement indicating that this was news to him: “Well, I haven’t really followed that campaign very closely at all.” When asked if he was declining to comment, Cochran said, "I can make a comment. You asked me what happened. I don’t know. I didn’t follow that campaign very closely.”
Eventually he did say that "some win, some lose. It’s not an automatic proposition that you get reelected just because you’ve done a good job. Voters make their own decisions and I respect their judgment.” But his initial obliviousness will no doubt overshadow any takes he has on the actual race at this point.
Except here's where the story gets a little confusing. Both Cochran and his challenger McDaniel commented on Cantor's loss on Wednesday. Speaking to WLBT, the senator said that he was "surprised by the margin of victory for [Cantor's] opponent," adding, "but that happens in politics." Unless Fox News's dating of their taped interview with Cochran is incorrect, it appears that the senator was able to comment on the race one day after the stunning loss, but unable to speak to the subject a day or two later. Although some see the WLBT interview as a debunking of Cochran's obliviousness to Cantor's loss, the juxtaposition of the two interviews paints a worrying picture, one underlined by some of Cochran's recent missteps in media appearances.
The Atlantic's Molly Ball, for instance, reported earlier that Cochran seemed to completely forget who she was just one half hour after she interviewed him on the campaign trail. The exchange prompted a heavy pushback from Cochran's camp, as Politico reported, with the senator's communications director Jordan Russell calling Ball's reporting "the most unprofessional, ridiculous, hit piece thing I have ever seen." Russell, however, did not dispute the facts of her reporting, including that of the senator's apparent memory lapse.