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Democrats Fighting Long Odds in Mississippi Senate Race


Mississippi’s Senate race may appear to be a lock for Republican incumbent Thad Cochran, but Democratic challenger Travis Childers is still in it to win.

That’s the view of Donna Brazile, a national Democratic strategist who said Childers, a former House member, isn’t giving up, even if his race against Cochran is “an uphill battle.”

Brazile, vice chairwoman of voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, said Childers is working hard to make sure his supporters get to the polls on Nov. 4.

“He’s cut from the old cloth,” she said. “He’s a Southern conservative Democrat.’’

Brazile acknowledged that Childers probably won’t get money from traditional sources that typically invest in what she called ”marquee races, where everybody is talking about Georgia, everybody’s talking about Kentucky, everybody’s talking about Louisiana.”

“Nobody is talking about Mississippi,’’ she said.

Democrats usually can count on support from black voters, but that’s not necessarily true in the Senate race. Black voters helped Cochran defeat a Tea Party challenger in a GOP primary runoff this year, and David Bositis, a political analyst who studies Southern politics, said he won’t be surprised if some of those same voters support Cochran in the general election.

“He’s never been particularly a friend (to black voters), but he’s never been hostile,’’ Bositis said. “He’s an old-style Southern politician. What he wants is pork. Pork means jobs.’’

Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said now that Cochran has survived the runoff, he’s considered the favorite to win next week. Cook rates the seat “likely Republican.’’

“Cochran really did get a wake-up call,’’ Duffy said of the runoff. “He’s out there now (campaigning). He’s doing what he’s supposed to.’’

On Monday, Cochran launched a television ad telling voters he would be a “strong voice’’ for the state in the Senate.

“With so much at stake in this election, Mississippi needs a senator with a proven record of getting things done,’’ the narrator says.

Cochran Stumps for Support from Black Voters

Republican Sen. Thad Cochran told black voters Thursday that when he first ran for Congress in 1972, Mississippi was in a period of fear and uncertainty because race relations were changing.

He said the gubernatorial election of 1971 was the first time a candidate for a major office in the state, Democrat Bill Waller, made an effort to appeal to black voters who were asserting their constitutional right to vote.

“I can remember this — you were denied that right, and that was wrong,” Cochran said. “And we are working more successfully than ever to break down those barriers and prejudices and open up our society to participation by everybody. And that’s my goal as I continue to serve in Washington.”

The senator spoke to about 50 people at a downtown Jackson campaign event sponsored by All Citizens of Mississippi, a political action committee that has bought ads promoting him to black voters.

The six-term senator defeated a tea party challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, in the June 24 Republican primary runoff. African-Americans were considered crucial to Cochran’s winning the nomination because turnout increased in many majority-black precincts between the June 3 primary and the runoff three weeks later. Some McDaniel supporters accused Cochran of race-baiting because of ads that said McDaniel would cut federal spending.

Responding to reporters’ questions after the event Thursday, Cochran said he won’t debate his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, before the Nov. 4 general election.

“There’s nothing new they’d learn about me. They know me,” Cochran said of voters. “He wants me to help draw a crowd. I’m not going to do it.”

Childers was elected to Congress from north Mississippi’s 1st District in mid-2008 and was unseated by a Republican in 2010. He has made several requests for Cochran to debate at least once in each of the four congressional districts, and he has criticized Cochran for voting against increasing the minimum wage and requiring equal pay for women and men who do the same jobs.

“This is not about being unappreciative or ungrateful to the senior senator. This is about the next six years and not the last 42,” Childers said during a recent campaign trip in south Mississippi. “This is about the future, not the past.”

The Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara, who has run unsuccessfully for several offices in the past two decades, is also on the November ballot for Senate.

NAACP Wants Senator Thad Cochran to ‘Show Some Reciprocity’

Thad Cochran Awaits Election Results After Close Run-Off Election

Black voters played a huge role in helping Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) fend off tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in a runoff election Tuesday, and now the state NAACP is asking the six-term senator to return the favor.

In an interview with HuffPost Live, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said that Cochran could thank black voters by supporting efforts to re-establish protections in the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down last year.

“Our advocacy towards his office is to support amending the Voting Rights Act, free of any conditions such as voter ID,” Johnson said. “I think this is an opportunity for him to show some reciprocity for African-Americans providing a strong level of support for him.”

Johnson said that there are currently no Republicans who support re-establishing the formula eliminated by the Supreme Court last year, though Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and a handful of other Republicans have expressed support for restoring protections. Under the formula, states like Mississippi needed to receive federal clearance before making changes to the way that elections were held. Johnson added that other priorities for the Mississippi NAACP included getting more support for the state’s black colleges and universities as well as getting more federal allocations for communities represented by black elected officials.

Black voters were essential in helping Cochran win a runoff election against McDaniel, who beat Cochran in a June 3 primary but failed to get 50 percent of the vote. In Jefferson County, the county with the largest percentage of eligible black voters in the United States, turnout increased by 92 percent from June 3, The New York Times reported. In Hinds County, which is 70 percent African-American,Cochran beat McDaniel by fewer than 6,000 votes on June 3, but won by a margin of more than 11,000 votes, NBC News reported.

Johnson said that Cochran owed his entire career in the Senate to African-Americans.

“Truth be told, not only would he not have won the election last night, he would not have been a sitting senator at all but for the volunteers and the staff of the NAACP, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, CORE, who worked diligently over several years which culminated to what we now know as Freedom Summer,” he said. These actions, Johnson said, “all paved the way so that African-Americans could in fact exercise their franchise and have the ability to elect candidates of their choice.” (Huffington Post)