I was planning on writing a post-mortem on Tom Tancredo’s heartbreaking defeat in the Colorado gubernatorial primary, and had little interest in the Mississippi run-off where incumbent Thad Cochran edged out Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel. I would have written about how the GOP Establishment fought tooth and nail against Tancredo and flooded the campaign with corporate money, but how Establishment candidate Bob Beauprez only defeated him by a small margin (and will almost certainly lose in November).
However, this is nothing new, and frankly the New York Times profile on the GOP Establishment’s war on Tancredo did a pretty good job of outlining the attacks. [A Candidate for Governor Has Both Parties on Alert, By Jack Healy, June 23, 2014]
There are certainly similarities between the Colorado and Mississippi races. Both Establishment candidates Bob Beauprez and Thad Cochran are decent, but not great, on mass immigration. Tom Tancredo, obviously, is great on immigration, while Chris McDaniel said that Jeff Sessions would be his role model on the issue. (However, neither emphasized the issue in their campaigns—in other words, they did not follow the Brat playbook).
In both cases, the Establishment tried to stoke fears that the insurgent candidates would tar the entire Republican Party as “racist.”
Former Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams told the New York Times: “If [Tancredo’s] the nominee, he will become the defining face of the Republican Party. The Democrats will make sure of it. He has said so many inflammatory things — the list is unbelievable.”
Similarly, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee criticized some decade-old comments by McDaniel about illegal immigration and slavery reparations by comparing him to Todd Akin and warning that candidates like McDaniel could “define our party and turn off independent voters with their tone-deaf rhetoric.”
However, the similarities stop there. The biggest difference: McDaniel was able to counter the GOP Establishment with (self-proclaimed) national Tea Party groups and the radical elements of Conservatism Inc. Groups like Freedom Works, Club for Growth, The Tea Party Patriots, and the Senate Conservatives Fund spent millions of dollars to support McDaniel. Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin endorsed him.
With the exception of the heroic Michelle Malkin, no major conservative figure or group endorsed Tancredo. The Tea Party support he received was local (arguably the only sort that really exists).
McDaniel also failed to run a truly populist campaign. Despite David Brat’s proven success in using corporate money as a campaign issue by tying it to the Amnesty/ Immigration Surge, McDaniel failed to tie immigration to the big donors who supported Cochran. As noted, Cochran had a decent voting record on Amnesty, but he voted for cloture on the Amnesty/Immigration Surge bill in 2013 as well as 2006, when both could have been killed, while ultimately voting against both bills when it was purely symbolic—a typical Washington maneuver aimed at appeasing the rubes while satisfying donors. Furthermore, Cochran also voted for a number of guest worker bills and the 1990 Immigration Act, which was responsible for massive increases in legal immigration. McDaniel never brought this up.
McDaniel did note that billionaires like Sean Parker and Michael Bloomberg supported Cochran, but didn’t tie it to anything beyond them being liberals who support gun control. In reality, Parker’s biggest political cause (at least financially) has been promoting Amnesty (Napster billionaire’s next mission: Conquer politics, Politico, April 21, 2014). And Bloomberg’s main rapprochement with the GOP has been to push mass immigration.
Instead McDaniel focused on a boilerplate “Conservative” issues, specifically attacking Cochran for (yawn) earmarks. But Mississippi voters do not oppose earmarks. One of Cochran’s ads, called “More for Mississippi,” bragged of his support of “our aerospace industry, shipbuilding, military bases, research and development and agricultural breakthroughs” as the screen displayed various projects that Cochran helped fund.[ The Cochran-McDaniel ad wars: A closer look, By Daniel Lippman, Politico, June 23, 2014’
Say what you want about earmarks, but they are at least intended to help the people of the state.
Anyway, McDaniel ended up backtracking on whether he supported Katrina relief, flood insurance, and Defense earmarks.
Moreover, when the GOP Establishment stupidly attacked both Tancredo and McDaniel for allegedly “racist” comments, Tancredo always stood his ground. In ignominious contrast, McDaniel ran away from them.
Thus McDaniel previously hosted a talk radio show and occasionally said some sensible things. He said he wouldn’t pay his taxes if he was forced to pay reparations for slavery. He joked about how Americans should all illegally immigrate to Mexico in retaliation for the Mexodus. But McDaniel refused to stand by either comment. He just reiterated how much he abhors “racism” and loves the blacks with whom he plays basketball.
Even more troubling, McDaniel actually returned a contribution from Carl Ford–an alleged “neo-confederate” who once defended a Klansman in a criminal trial nearly 30 years ago. [McDaniel returns neo-Confederate cash, By Chris Stirewalt, FoxNews.com, June 19, 2014]
Ford denied ever being in the Klan and noted that he was a new lawyer working for his boss when he defended the Klansman. In any case, as both candidates are attorneys, McDaniel should have pointed to Mississippi’s Rules of Professional conduct, which state that a lawyer’s representation of a client “does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.”
Similarly, no campaign can be responsible for the views or actions of their donors. In fact, Ford had given to many mainstream Mississippi candidates–including Thad Cochran. Even Ron Paul (who Ford also contributed to) acknowledged this. Ron Paul disowns extremists’ views, not their support, Daily Caller, December 26, 2011
Decisively, McDaniel’s timidity on racial may have been the reason why he could not turn to his own advantage Cochran’s unscrupulous drive to recruit black Democratic voters.
Mississippi law allows for Democrats and independents to vote in the Republican primary. Even before the first primary on June 3, Cochran’s campaign had courted black Democratic voters. But he went to new levels before the runoff, with flyers passed through black churches and neighborhoods accusing McDaniel and the Tea Party of suppressing the black vote, opposing Civil Rights memorials, and opposing food stamp funding. Cochran contrasted it with his funding of Historically Black Colleges, the Martin Luther King Memorial, and food stamps.
— John Vass (@JohnVassNascar) June 26, 2014
Needless to say, Cochran did not mention these pro-black expenditures in his “More for Mississippi” ads. But while McDaniel made many noises about Cochran appealing to “Democrats,” neither he nor his many Conservatism Inc. allies made any noise about these blatant appeals to anti-white resentment and racial socialism.
It’s easy to envisage an ad that would splice Cochran talking about “More for Mississippi” with his claims about funding black colleges and food stamps and says “When Thad Cochran says he brings ‘More for Mississippi,’ he means more welfare, more food stamps, and more Affirmative Action colleges.”
Of course, the national Main stream Media would have gone crazy. But it could have pushed McDaniel over the top.
McDaniel said some sensible things on race and immigration, but so have many Republicans during primaries. Based solely on John McCain’s words during the 2010 primary, I’d probably have supported him—and God knows that would have been a mistake.
Nevertheless, the way McDaniel ran away from any “racial” controversy makes me wonder if he would have followed through with his otherwise-solid positions, above all on immigration.
For the same reason, we will never find out.
Washington Watcher” [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway