Republican Sen. Thad Cochran held on to a slim margin of votes to defeat his Tea Party-backed challenger and win his party’s nomination.
Cochran, who at 76 has served six terms in the Senate, made a last-ditch effort to attract traditionally Democratic voters into the Republican primary runoff to bolster his flagging poll numbers against state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Cochran has 50.9 percent of the vote to McDaniel’s 49.1 percent. Turnout jumped to 360,000 from the 319,000 who voted in the June 2 primary, reports the Clarion-Ledger.
Reuters described the race as “a multimillion-dollar referendum on the direction of the Republican Party.”
The Associated Press says Cochran “sent billions of federal dollars to his poor state over a long career. His 41-year-old challenger said taxpayers could not afford that federal largesse.”
With just hours before the polls opened on Tuesday, The New York Times said Cochran’s campaign was “still reaching out to traditional black Democrats. … But turnout in African-American precincts appeared to be low, and McDaniel supporters were optimistic.”
USA Today noted a few bizarre moments in the campaign, including the arrest of four McDaniel supporters “who were charged with felony conspiracy for allegedly sneaking into the nursing home room of Cochran’s bedridden wife.”