Government & Constitution

Mississippi toss-up: Cochran v. McDaniel tied at 40% in Human Events/Gravis poll

Mississippi toss-up: Cochran v. McDaniel tied at 40% in Human Events/Gravis poll
Sen. W. Thad Cochran visits July 24, 2013 with his summer interns (from left) Austin Harrison of Louisville, Sarah Margaret Hewes of Gulfport, Harrison Kajdan of Gulfport, Gus Maples of Lucedale, Tristen Jackson of Brandon and Mary Frances Stephens of Magee. (Courtesy)

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Six months before the Mississippi GOP primary, Sen. W. Thad Cochran is in a dead heat with attorney and former radio host  state Sen. Christopher McDaniel, according to a Dec. 13 Human Events/Gravis poll of 691 voters, who voted in a Republican primary in 2010 and or 2012, with both men polling 40 percent with 20 percent undecided.

“Overall, the results indicate that Senator Cochran is in a tight spot,” said Doug Kaplan, president of Gravis Marketing, a Florida-based polling and call center company. The poll also asked about other issues and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

“Cochran is virtually tied with McDaniel, and he is again under the 50 percent threshold when running in a generic run against a Tea Party candidate,” he said. “Cochran polled only 45 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for the generic Tea Party candidate.”

[Click on poll chart image to enlarge]

If the primary election were held today for the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, would you vote for Thad Cochran or Chris McDaniel?

Q2- If the primary election were held today for Republian nominee for U.S. Senate, would you vote for Thad Cochran or Chris McDaniel?

If the primary election were held today for the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, would you vote for Thad Cochran or a tea party candidate?

Q3-If the primary election were held today for the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, would you vote for Thad Cochran or a tea party candidate?

As if they approved of his job performance, 39 percent said they did and 40 percent responded that they were undecided, he said.

Kaplan said it makes sense that the senator polled weakest among young voters because he first came to Washington in 1978. “He was elected to the Senate the year I was born.”

When Cochran announced that he was running for reelection in the first week in December, McDaniel was already in the race and many on Capitol Hill expected him to pack it in. Instead, he is firing up his campaign, opening offices and hiring campaign staff.

Cochrane’s new campaign manager, Kirk Sims, speaks to the gravity of the task ahead. Sims, the son-in-law of Sen. Roger F. Wicker (R.-Miss.), left his post as Mississippi Gov. D. Phillip Bryant’s chief of staff to lead the campaign.

Senator Cochran takes this campaign very seriously, and he is going to run a strong campaign for re-election focused on Mississippi’s future,” Sims said.

Political scientist Marvin P. King Jr., a political science professor at the University of Mississippi, said the primary race is the biggest fight of Cochran’s political career.

“It is unlikely he can cruise to victory. It doesn’t help that he is so low-key, as a result, few Mississippians are aware of his many accomplishments in the Senate,” he said.

“Essentially, this is a test for Republican Party to see which wing of the party is strongest and it appears that the Tea Party is ascendant, at least in Mississippi,” he said. “Given Thad Cochran’s long tenure in office the fact that he is not further ahead is testament to the fact that being a low-key politician might not be the best strategy when facing insurgent intra-party competition.”

How would you rate Senator  Cochran’s job performance?

Q4- How would you rate Sen. Cochran's job performance?

Senator Cochran was elected first in 1978. Is he more conservative since he’s been elected, less conservative or the same?

Q5- Sen. Cochrane- more or less conservative than 1978

McDaniel campaign spokesman Keith Plunkett said race will turn on national issues.

“Washington is broken, and it is clear Mississippi voters are looking for a change. For too long, career politicians in Washington have allowed our national debt to grow out-of-control, supported taxpayer-funded bail outs and tax increases, and voted to raise their own pay,” he said.

“As more voters learn about Chris McDaniel’s conservative record of cutting spending, opposing amnesty, and fighting against Obamacare, they are rallying to his candidacy,” he said

Mississippi state Sen. Christopher McDaniel (R)

Mississippi GOP state Sen. Christopher McDaniel

As the GOP establishment is lining up with Cochran, conservative groups are supporting McDaniel.

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said the conservative economic group backs McDaniel over Cochran.

“We’re supporting state Senator Chris McDaniel for the US Senate because he’s a fiscal conservative with backbone who will stand up to the big spenders in both parties when he gets to Washington,” he said.

“We expect that the more Mississippi voters get to know Chris McDaniel, the more they’ll decide that after 40 years in Washington, it’s time to replace Senator Cochran with someone new,” Keller said.

The FreedomWorks PAC is also supporting McDaniel, said Easton Randall, FreedomWorks government affairs manager. Freedom Works is a Washington-based national support hub for Tea Party organizations.

“This poll is very bad news for Senator Cochran. He has near universal name ID across the state and can’t even break 50 percent against a generic opponent,” he said.

“After 35 years in the Senate, this poll serves as another startling data point that the voters of Mississippi are looking for a better option to represent them in the U.S Senate,” he said.

Dean Clancy, FreedomWorks vice-president for public policy, said, “Voters in Mississippi overwhelmingly are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, but we think this dissatisfaction falls at the feet of both parties.” The poll showed that 92 percent of the voters polls responded that the country is going in the wrong direction.

Do you think the United States is on the right track all wrong track?

Q1- Do you think the United States is on the right track or wrong track

Do you support drug testing for welfare benefits, including food stamps?

Do you support drug testing for welfare?

“The fact that only 39 percent approve of Sen. Cochran’s job performance, and 40 percent are unsure, should be a wakeup call to the Senator,” he said. “Voters are no longer looking for a new bridge or highway, which is Senator Cochran’s specialty.”

Randall said McDaniel is running against Republican Old Guard, but will win because of his conservative message and outreach to local activists across the state.

“This poll also shows how well State Senator Chris McDaniel and his message of fiscal sanity is working across the state,” he said.

“Cochran has every major establishment crony in Mississippi and D.C. behind his campaign and even the Barbour family is working double time to protect their backroom comrade,” he said. “Yet despite all their best efforts, McDaniel is tied with the incumbent after only a few months on the campaign trail. This is proof that a united grassroots can make a difference. The grassroots matter.”

Keith Appell, a senior vice-president at Washington-based CRC Public Relations, which has several conservative public policy, grassroots and issue advocacy clients, said the Republican senators, who support funding Obamacare will have to answer to angry voters, including Senate Minority A. Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell Jr. (R.-Ky.).

“This confirms what many have sensed since the Defund ObamaCare fight began last summer: that these GOP incumbent Senators are vulnerable, perhaps more so than anyone thought or wanted to admit,” he said.

“I saw a Kentucky Rail poll at the end of October that was just miserable for McConnell.  It didn’t test head to head with Bevin but McConnell’s negatives were absolutely brutal – they were worse than ObamaCare itself. His refusal to support the Ryan/Murray deal also, in my personal opinion, what his internal numbers are saying,” he said.

“These Mississippi numbers would seem to validate Cochran’s reluctance to declare his intentions. If he’s going to win re-election it’ll literally be the political fight of his life. He may have the stomach for it, or he may just hang it up,” he said.

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