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Campaign analysis of U.S. Senate race

Reported by: Wayne Hereford
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Updated: 6/04 7:35 pm
OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA)-- Many voters are surprised by Tuesday night's U.S. Senate Republican primary results.

After all, both candidates ran vigourous and sometimes contentious campaigns.

"Mississippi does not have a history of contested primaries with incumbents in Congress," said Ole Miss Political Science Professor John Bruce. 

He says the election between incumbent Thad Cochran and State Senator Chris McDaniel was and continues to be historic for a number of reasons.

"Besides a contested primary, it was a pretty aggressive primary. It was not only contested; it was aggressively contested with a vast sum of outside money. So, it was extremely unusual," Bruce explained. 

Bruce adds that the fact there was a virtual tie for the senate seat is historic for the incumbent Thad Cochran.

"The Deep South has a long polititcal history of liking their incumbents. In fact, we tend to like them until they die. That trend has faded some," he said.

Bruce adds that the trend has faded because Chris McDaniel appears to be riding a wave of voter angst against the U.S. government.

Bruce also believes that the Cochran camp may not have taken McDaniel's bid for the seat seriously at the beginning of the campaign.

"I think the Cochran campaign's approach was to, 'we haven't had a hard challenge since the mid-80s. We're going to wait this guy out,'" he said. "But, they [Cochran's campaign] underestimated the degree to which he would draw the conservative vote in the state, and they ended up behind the curve a little bit."

Bruce adds it's harder to run an exciting incumbent campaign than that of a challenger.

Bruce says a challenger like McDaniel can often be seen as the new kid on the block with fresh ideas, even if the incumbent has many accomplishments.

Bruce says that he sees no reason why Cochran supporters should be upset because Cochran did not give a speech following Tuesday night's election.

"The people who were mad that he didn't give a speech, they're not going to vote for him. So, how does it hurt him?" said Bruce.

As far as what happens next, Bruce says both men will have to get their voters back out and bring others into the camp.

He says that will likely be easier for McDaniel than Cochran, but there is one strategy Cochran might employ.

"I'm going out to Democrats. And, I'm saying if you want to keep this state with a Republican Senator. If you don't want to go with McDaniel, sell him as too strong," he said.

Bruce believes Democratic candidate Travis Childers will stand a better chance if he faces Chris McDaniel in the general election.

But, he says Childers will have to campaign harder in south Mississippi than either of his potential Republican condenters.
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