Long-time Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran (R) announced, recently, that he would be seeking re-election in 2014. Cochran, age 76, has support from many Republican leaders in the state but will face a primary challenge from a Conservative State Legislator in Chris McDaniel. According to Politico, many insiders in Mississippi were expecting Cochran to step down, because he had only raised $50,000 in the third quarter of 2013. Per OpenSecrets, Cochran has just over $800,000 cash on hand for his re-election campaign. Prominent organizations known for challenging the Republican incumbent have already got involved in the race. The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) has put just under $50,000 in the coffers of McDaniel for the primary challenge. The SCF, Club for Growh, and the Madison Project have endorsed McDaniel in his potential run.
A poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) released on November 19, 2013 found that McDaniel had a favorability among GOP primary voters of 33/17 and a statewide favorability of 19/31. But there's not great news for Cochran, according to the poll. 35% of GOP primary voters stated that they would vote for Cochran in the Republican primary but 55% said that they would favor someone more Conservative. In a head to head match-up, Cochran leads McDaniel in the GOP primary 44-38. Cochran's favorability is unlikely to move much among primary voters, being at 45/42. Cochran's statewide favorability is 44/40.
Even in a conservative state, such as Mississippi, there may be some fear that a more conservative candidate could not get elected in a statewide election. In hypothetical match-ups Cochran defeats all Democratic challengers, ranging 2-17 points as his margin of victory. But McDaniel does not fare as well, statewide. McDaniel leads former Congressman Travis Childers and former Governor Ronnie Musgrove by 3 points each. But McDaniel is trailing Attorney General Jim Hood by 2 points.
The strongest candidate, by far, for the Democratic nomination is Attorney General Jim Hood. Hood has not announced if he will run for Senate in 2014, or not. But, if he does he poses a serious threat to both Cochran and McDaniel. Mississippi could actually have a competitive Senate election in 2014.
Regardless, McDaniel's statewide appeal trails Cochran. While he might be able to outperform Cochran at the polls for the primary, he is clearly, not as strong of a candidate as Cochran. But who knows? McDaniel might be one of the few TEA Party aligned candidates who outperforms the polls. The historical evidence suggests that while the primary challenges might be a positive for the primary voters, they consistently fail to show up for the general election.