Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran Beats Chris McDaniel In Primary, Tea Party Groans Loudly

The Tea Party endured a major defeat Tuesday night: Veteran Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran beat Tea Partier Chris McDaniel in a high-profile runoff election. It was a narrow victory for Cochran, who defeated his Tea Party opponent by fewer than 7,000 votes. However, it was a major upset for the Tea Party, as a win for McDaniel could have marked a changing tide for the right-wing anti-establishment party, which is looking to build upon its influence on the fringes of American politics and gain more control in Congress.

McDaniel has yet to concede the race, which saw more than 370,000 votes cast from Mississippi residents. He is considering taking legal action to contest the outcome. "Before this race ends, we have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters," McDaniel told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Cochran reveled in the victory, telling his campaign staff and supporters Tuesday night: "What we have tonight is a consensus for more and better jobs for Mississippi workers."

The two candidates failed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 4 Mississippi Republican primary, setting the stage for the bitterly fought runoff election. Both candidates poured millions of dollars into their campaigns; Cochran received funds from business organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, while McDaniel was supported by small-government groups.

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After the surprise upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was defeated in the Virginia Republican primary earlier this month by Tea Party challenger David Brat, all eyes were on the Mississippi runoff election to see if the Tea Party would gain another victory in the South. A Tea Party win would have issued a warning signal to Washington that dissatisfaction in the government is high — and spreading.

But the runoff was also noted for its highlighting of the differences between the traditional GOP and its rising right-wing faction, which supports the slashing of federal spending and more socially conservative planks. As McDaniel was appealing to Mississippi's conservative citizens, Cochran went left of center, reaching out to the state's African-American Democratic voters, who were allowed to vote in the runoff if they didn't vote in the June 4 Democratic primary. Cochran emphasized that he poured millions of federal funds into the state over his four-decade career, and is committed to providing jobs and financial support for Mississippi, which is the poorest state in the U.S.

Because the current Democratic Senate majority is flimsy, many pundits have been keeping an eye on the Senate primaries. According to The New York Times, statistical data shows Republicans have a slight chance — 56 percent — of gaining control of the Senate in the upcoming November election.