Thursday, June 5, 2014

Leading up to Mississippi primary "Cochran enjoyed backing of a muscular array of corporate PACs and interest groups, extraordinary injection of late money" from permanent political class pals McCain, Orrin Hatch, Rob Portman, and the NRSC-Politico

6/4/14, "Thad Cochran backers face agonizing choice," Politico, by Alexander Burns, and Manu Raju

"Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s national backers awakened to a wrenching decision Wednesday: whether to continue pouring energy and cash into an effort to rescue a six-term incumbent who failed to win a majority of the vote in this week’s primary.

The dilemma is agonizing on every level, forcing longtime Cochran allies who have already spent millions defending him to gauge how realistic the beloved senior senator’s chances are to win a June 24 runoff.

Independent groups have already reported spending over $8 million in the Mississippi race, with more than $5 million going to support state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the hard-charging tea party candidate who held Cochran below 50 percent of the vote. With 99.6 percent of precincts reporting, McDaniel led Cochran by just under 2,000 votes, 49.5 percent to 48.9 percent.

Cochran enjoyed the backing of a muscular array of corporate PACs and interest groups, and received an extraordinary injection of late money from his Senate comrades. He took $27,000 in contributions from colleagues including Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio and John Boozman of Arkansas. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which deployed field staff to Mississippi ahead of the primary to bolster Cochran’s operation, gave him $45,400 on May 20....

But left unsaid by all parties Wednesday was precisely how much money Republicans might continue to pump into the race, whether they believe Cochran and his operation can sustain a three-week sprint to the next ballot — and just how intensely Republicans are willing to target a challenger who may end up as their nominee.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who chairs the NRSC, said Wednesday he continues to believe Cochran would be a far better general election candidate than McDaniel. At the same time, he expressed deep reluctance to go after McDaniel in the runoff....

Asked if it made sense to attack McDaniel over the next three weeks, as the NRSC did during the primary, Moran said: “It does not to me.”

Moran also strongly indicated it would not be his preference for the national party to shore up Cochran financially in the runoff.

It’s always seemed to me that incumbent senators ought to be able to raise the money they need to get reelected,” Moran said in an interview. “No decision has been made about money, but my inclination is that this is not about NRSC money going into Mississippi.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, Cochran’s home-state colleague, gave a blunt answer to the question of whether national Republicans should keep investing in Cochran: “Oh yeah.”

“I think spending money effectively in the next three weeks saves millions in the general,” Wicker said.

Cochran’s most powerful outside-group allies indicated that they, too, would keep boosting the well-liked lawmaker. A top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tweeted that the business lobby would “stand by Cochran.” Henry Barbour, the Republican National Committee member who leads the top super PAC supporting Cochran, said in an email that his group would continue to go “all out” in the race.

The looming question, though, is how much money these groups intend to throw at a race that many in Washington resent having been forced to spend money on at all. Several top party strategists said the process of assessing Cochran’s viability as a runoff candidate is underway....
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the NRSC’s vice chairman, said in an interview that it wouldn’t make sense to go negative against McDaniel. Still, he said he expects the committee to spend money on Cochran’s behalf and warned that “polling shows” McDaniel might put the seat at risk in November. 

“My understanding is that we will continue to support the incumbent, financially and otherwise,” he said....

McDaniel, a staunchly ideological conservative who has insistently attacked Cochran as a big-spending Washington insider, can count on the continued support of national political groups on the right.

The Club for Growth, which spent about $2.5 million promoting McDaniel and attacking Cochran ahead of this week’s vote, issued a statement Wednesday calling on Cochran to throw in the towel. Club President Chris Chocola said it was time for Cochran to “do the honorable thing and decline to contest the runoff.”

Should he choose to persist, the Club for Growth PAC and conservatives throughout Mississippi will vigorously pursue this race to its conclusion, and we will look forward to the election of Senator Chris McDaniel,” Chocola said.

The independent-spending groups that already played an outsize part in the GOP primary are likely to take on an even more significant role in a second round of voting, since the candidates themselves both appear to be running on fumes.

In his pre-primary filing with the Federal Election Commission, McDaniel said he had just $238,000 left in his campaign account — a small sum for the homestretch of an expensive race. Cochran reported having $480,000 in the bank on May 14.

Both candidates have surely spent down their cash reserves since then, and Cochran’s campaign disclosed last week that it withdrew a $150,000 loan from the Bank of New Albany, guaranteed by the senator himself.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 Republican in Senate leadership, was optimistic that Mississippi would remain “a Republican seat” regardless of what happens in the runoff. But he expressed concern about the possibility of all-out war over the remaining weeks of the race."...


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