WASHINGTON — _Sen. Thad Cochran, campaigning as the veteran voice of reason and experience, Tuesday narrowly defeated upstart challenger Chris McDaniel and the tea party movement that so passionately rallied behind him in a fiercely fought race for the Mississippi Republican Senate nomination.
The runoff election victory by the savvy Washington insider was a rebuff to the tea party and like-minded conservative groups. It was probably the final blow to a conservative insurgency that began 2014 with enormous ambitions.
Those groups had vowed to topple Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Cochran and others. Instead, they saw most of their challengers overwhelmed by the Republican mainstream, as the party’s business allies and longtime strategists helped long-established incumbents.
Cochran followed that script. He had the backing of most of Mississippi’s Republican hierarchy, as well as strong financial backing from business interests. He touted his ability to win much-needed dollars for his impoverished state, and got local officials’ backing all over Mississippi.
And he got an apparent boost from Democrats and independents—notably African-American voters—who were eligible to participate. Non-Republicans who did not vote in the June 3 primary were eligible to vote Tuesday.