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McDaniel Formally Challenges Mississippi Runoff Results

Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel announced at a news conference on Monday that he is formally challenging his runoff loss to Senator Thad Cochran. Cochran won the Mississippi Republican primary runoff in June by 7,667 votes. But McDaniel’s lawyer, Mitch Tyner, argues that 15,000 votes are invalid.

Cochran triumphed largely because he was able to drum up Democratic support, especially from black voters in the state. Mississippi has an open primary, meaning that Democrats who didn’t vote in their party’s primary could participate in the Republican runoff. But McDaniel and other conservative groups have claimed that many Democratic votes should not have been allowed, and that McDaniel is the real winner.

The formal challenge states that election officials “did not maintain proper control of the election process,” and that too many people were allowed to vote via absentee ballot.

Tyner said that the campaign identified 3,500 voters who cast ballots in both primaries (which on its own wouldn’t be enough to invalidate the runoff), and over 10,000 votes that should be invalidated (9,500 questionable votes, and 2,275 improper absentee ballots).

One of those votes belongs to Cochran’s spokesman, Jordan Russell. McDaniel’s challenge states that Russell’s vote is being questioned because “there was no reason given for voting absentee.”

In the news conference, Tyner said that McDaniel doesn’t want another election; he just wants the state Republican executive committee to declare him the winner. McDaniel’s team wants the committee to hold a public hearing on the issue on August 12.

The formal challenge claims that Cochran’s team bought votes, despite a lack of evidence. It also argues that Democrats who plan to vote Democratic in the general election cannot vote in the Republican primary, citing a Mississippi state provision, and that Republicans “suffered a constitutional injury” in the runoff because they have a right to not be associated with Democrats.

Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen is skeptical. As he wrote, before the runoff the provision was widely viewed as “unenforceable,” as there is no way to prove whom a primary voter is thinking of voting for in the general election. “Neither the party nor the court will count [the Democratic votes] as fraud,” he predicted.

McDaniel’s campaign has also made it clear that he specifically wants to question the black votes that went to Cochran. The official press release that his team sent out stated, “Thad Cochran lost Republican votes in the runoff and made up the difference with Democrat votes.” But the original press release, obtained by The Daily Caller, had said “black Democrat” instead of just “Democrat.”

McDaniel’s challenge also suggests that the committee entirely discount the votes from Hinds County, which is 69 percent black, as their regression shows that McDaniel would have won by 25,000 votes without Democratic participation in the county.

The challenge concludes, “The June 24 election was a product of Democrat and unlawful votes. It does not reflect the will of the qualified Republican electors of Mississippi.”

According to Hasen, McDaniel’s odds of being declared the winner are almost nonexistent.

“There is nothing here that meets the standard to show enough fraud in the election to require it to be overturned,” he writes. “At most this shows that the elections were not administered competently in some jurisdictions.”

This isn’t just a local dispute. The Senate Conservatives Fund, of which former Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is now president, is committed to helping McDaniel challenge Cochran.

“When you look at what they did — the Establishment did — to try to hold onto their power, I mean, they literally adopted Democrat — worst Democrat — tactics,” he told The Washington Examiner. “The race-baiting, the pimping-out welfare and et cetera is what Thad Cochran was doing and the super PAC was doing.”

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

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Poll: 37 Percent Of Mississippi Republicans Would Back Confederacy In Civil War

During state Senator Chris McDaniel’s unsuccessful primary challenge to Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), he often exhorted his supporters to “reclaim your country again.”

Thanks to a new Public Policy Polling survey, we may have a better idea of what he meant.

The poll, released Tuesday, finds that 37 percent of those who supported McDaniel in the Mississippi Republican primary runoff would support the Confederate states if there were a second Civil War. Just 38 percent would back the United States, and 25 percent were unsure.

Cochran supporters — a group that included many black Democrats — are a bit more patriotic: 61 percent would back the Union, while 22 percent would support the Confederacy and 17 percent are not sure.

Overall, 37 percent of Republicans who voted in the runoff would side with the Confederacy, and 41 percent would side with the United States; 21 percent couldn’t decide.

A smaller, but still significant minority seems to have an appetite for sparking such a conflict; 16 percent of runoff voters support the South seceding from the United States and forming its own country, while 63 percent oppose the idea, and 21 percent are not sure.

One in five McDaniel supporters back secession.

It’s not altogether surprising that many McDaniel supporters are nostalgic for the Confederacy; throughout the campaign, the conservative state senator was forced to distance himself from neo-Confederates and white supremacists.

PPP is known for including provocative questions in its polls, which occasionally toe the line of trolling the respondents. In 2013, for example, the pollster found that racist celebrity chef Paula Deen had a higher favorability in Georgia than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Overall, PPP found that Senator Cochran is in good shape for the general election. He leads former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, the Democratic nominee, by a 40 to 24 percent margin.

The PPP poll surveyed 501 Republican primary voters, all of whom said they voted in the runoff election. It has a +/- 3.7 percent margin of error.

H/t: Talking Points Memo

Photo: Stuart Seeger via Flickr

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WATCH: McDaniel Calls Mississippi Runoff ‘Most Unethical’ In History

Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel is still not over his narrow loss in the Republican primary runoff between himself and incumbent senator Thad Cochran (R-MS).

Since election night, McDaniel has refused to concede defeat, even though the state Republican Party has certified Cochran as the winner (by 7,667 votes, or 2 percent). Instead, McDaniel and allied Tea Party groups have accused the Cochran campaign of rigging the election through widespread fraud, charging that the incumbent “used leftist tactics to steal the runoff election by soliciting illegal votes from liberal Democrats.”

McDaniel’s accusations — which have yet to be backed by any legitimate evidence — reached their absurd, logical conclusion over the weekend, when the state senator claimed that the runoff was “clearly the most unethical election in the history of this state.”

“Let’s make it very clear today,” McDaniel said at a July 5 rally, as reported by BuzzFeed. “After what we saw the other night, which is clearly the most unethical election in the history of this state…and might…and might…very well be the most illegal election in the history of this state. We will let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike. The people of this state will do anything to preserve the torch of liberty. We will bear any burden, fight any foe, to make sure that corruption is finally rooted out of the election process in this state.”

As BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski points out, it’s hard to imagine that the runoff was less ethical than any Mississippi election between 1875 and 1964, when black Mississipians were denied the right to vote through a combination of discriminatory laws and violent terrorism. But then, it’s not particularly surprising that McDaniel — who spent much of his Senate campaign distancing himself from various white supremacists — isn’t well versed in civil rights history.

Although McDaniel refuses to give up on the Republican primary, the Cochran campaign has already shifted its focus to the general election against former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS). Cochran is a heavy favorite to return to Washington for a seventh term in the Senate.

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On July 4, A Message For Patriots Of All Persuasions

When the flags fly proudly on the Fourth of July, I always remember what my late father taught me about love of country. He was a deeply patriotic man, much as he despised the scoundrels and pretenders he liked to mock as “jelly-bellied flag flappers.”  It is a phrase from a Rudyard Kipling story that aptly describes the belligerent chicken-hawk who never stops squawking – someone like Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh.

Like many who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my dad never spoke much about his four tough years of military service, which brought him under Japanese bombardment in the Pacific theatre. But eventually there came a time when he attached to his lapel a small, eagle-shaped pin, known as a “ruptured duck” – a memento given to every veteran. With this proof of service, he demonstrated that as a lifelong liberal, he loved his country as much as any conservative.

Would such a gesture resonate today? Right-wingers have long sought to establish a monopoly on patriotic expression. On this holiday, when we celebrate the nation’s revolutionary founding, we need to remind ourselves just how hollow that right-wing tactic is and always has been. Only our historical amnesia permits the right — infested with neo-Confederates and other dubious types — to assert an exclusive franchise on the flag, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the whole panoply of national symbols. In the light of history, it should be plain that progressives are fully entitled to a share of America’s heritage; indeed, perhaps even more than their right-wing rivals.

Let’s begin at the official beginning. Although “right” and “left” didn’t define political combat at that time on these shores, there isn’t much doubt that behind the American Revolution, and in particular the Declaration of Independence, was not only a colonial elite but a cabal of left-wing radicals as well.

How else to describe Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, the revolutionary idealists who declared their contempt for monarchy and aristocracy? It is true that many of their wealthier and more cautious comrades in the Continental Congress disdained Adams as a reckless adventurer “of bankrupt fortune,” and Paine as a rabble-rousing scribbler. Of course popular democracy was a wildly radical doctrine in colonial times, only tamed in the writing of the Constitution by the new nation’s land-owning elites and slaveholders.

The right-wingers of that era were the Tories — colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, opposed to change, and, in their assistance to George III’s occupying army, exactly the opposite of patriots. Only after two centuries of ideological shifting can Tea Party “constitutionalists” claim that the republican faith of the Founding Fathers is “conservative.”

The Civil War was just as plainly a struggle between left and right, between patriots and … well, in those days the Confederate leaders were deemed traitors (a term avoided since then out of a decent concern for Southern sensibilities). Academics dispute the war’s economic and social basis, but there is no doubt that the 19th-century left sought to abolish slavery and preserve the Union, while its right-wing contemporaries fought to extend slavery and destroy the Union.

Reverence for the Confederacy remains an emotional touchstone for right-wing Southern politicians and intellectuals (not to mention the Ku Klux Klan, assorted neo-Nazis, and many activists in the Tea Party). All of these disreputable elements denigrate Lincoln, our greatest president, and promote nostalgia for the plantation, sometimes known as “the Southern way of life.” The latest example is Chris McDaniel, the defeated Tea Party candidate for the Senate in Mississippi, a flag-waver if ever there was one – except when he was delivering fiery speeches to the secessionist Sons of Confederate Veterans. At the risk of offending every “conservative” who runs around with a Stars and Bars bumper sticker, it is hard to see how his conduct qualifies as American patriotism.

Still another inglorious episode in the annals of the right preceded World War II. The “America First” movement that opposed U.S. intervention against Hitler camouflaged itself with red, white and blue but proved to be a haven for foreign agents who were plotting against the United States. (Philip Roth brilliantly depicted this sinister campaign in The Plot Against America.)

Although Communists and pacifists had opposed American entry into the war for their own reasons, the broad-based left of the New Deal coalition understood the threat from the Axis very early. After Pearl Harbor most conservatives honorably joined the war effort, but some continued to promote defeatism and appeasement. And the historical roots of postwar conservatism — the “Old Right” of Joseph McCarthy and Pat Buchanan, the Buckley family and yes, the Koch brothers — can be traced to those prewar Nazi sympathizers.

What does true patriotism mean today? Do you truly love your country if you are a corporate leader hiding billions of dollars in profits offshore or insisting on the declining wages that have ruined the American dream? Do you love your country if you demand the right to pollute its air and water and despoil its countryside, no matter the cost to future generations? Do you love your country when you scheme to deprive your fellow citizens of the right to vote, which so many died to preserve?

Somehow the wingers righteously wrap themselves in Old Glory, as if our heritage belongs to them alone. On this holiday, and every other day, it surely does not.

Photo: Mike Mozart via Flickr

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