After Mr. Clawson’s win, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden said the candidate would work “tirelessly to create jobs, strengthen the economy and stop Obamacare from continuing to hurt Florida families.”
But the main event of the evening was in Mississippi, where outside groups spent more than $11 million on behalf of the candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Club for Growth Action, Senate Conservatives Action, and Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund invested millions on behalf of Mr. McDaniel, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Mississippi Conservatives, which was run by Henry Barbour, a member of the RNC and nephew of former Gov. Haley Barbour, threw their financial muscle behind Mr. Cochran.
Tea partyers hoped the McDaniel campaign would be energized by Dave Brat’s shocking victory earlier this month over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia Republican primary, a result that rattled the Washington establishment.
But it was not to be, as Mr. Cochran made a late pitch to black voters and Democrats that political analysts said provided him with the margin of victory.
Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report said via Twitter that the Cochran “win is almost entirely attributable to a large turnout increase among black votes” that did not come out for the initial June 3 primary.
Bitterness over that tactic was likely to remain.
Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks for America, which spent more than $450,000 on pro-McDaniel efforts, called it disgraceful that “self-described GOP leaders” such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. John McCain, along with the National Republican Senatorial Committee would “champion a campaign platform of pork barrel spending and insider deal-making, while recruiting Democrats to show up at the polls.”
“If the only way the K Street wing of the GOP establishment can win is by courting Democrats to vote in GOP primaries, then we’ve already won,” Mr. Kibbe said. “Tonight is proof that the K Street establishment is intellectually bankrupt, and we are going to have to clean it up.”
Mr. McConnell defeated a tea party backed challenger earlier in the primary season.
Before the votes were tallied, Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that a Cochran win would serve as a reminder of the power of incumbency.
“Even as several Senate incumbents have had harder races than they are used to this year — Cochran especially — no Senate incumbent has lost a primary this year,” Mr. Kondik said. “Senate primary defeats are rare, and even without an optimal performance from the candidate, that the Cochran forces got their main over the finish line is a testament to the enduring power of incumbency. The battle between the establishment and outsider forces in the GOP rages on, though.”
Heading into the election, political observers generally believed that Mr. McDaniel could have the upper hand, thanks in large part to his loyal band of grass-roots activists.
But in the final weeks of the campaign, political observers said that the Cochran campaign threw everything but the kitchen sink at Mr. McDaniel, who had the backing of Mrs. Palin and former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.