- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. — It appears that the show must go on.

Hours after the polls closed, Republican incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and insurgent challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel had yet to capture enough of the vote Tuesday in the Mississippi primary to win the GOP nomination for the Senate seat outright, setting up a June 24 run-off.

Rep. Gregg Harper, a Cochran supporter, emerged around 11:15 p.m. to address the hundreds that turned out for Mr. Cochran’s election night party in a hotel ballroom, telling them that “it is looking like a run-off.”

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With 96.5 percent of the precincts counted, Mr. McDaniel held a razor-thin 49.5 percent to 49 percent edge over Mr. Cochran, with a third candidate snagging less than 2 percent.

In other closely watched races, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds won the Republican nomination for Senate — and instantly became the favorite to pick up a seat for his party in its drive to capture a majority this fall.

Chris McDaniel
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In Iowa, Republican state Sen. Jodi Ernst was declared the winner in a crowded race, earning the right to oppose Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the fall for a seat long in the hands of Democrat Tom Harkin.

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Republicans eyed another fall pickup opportunity in South Dakota, where Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson has chosen to retire, and Mr. Rounds easily eclipsed his rivals for the GOP nomination. Rick Weiland, making his third try for a seat in Congress, was unopposed by other Democrats.

Democrat Sen. Cory Booker had no competition for renomination in New Jersey, and four Republicans sought to oppose him in the fall.

Republican governors winning renomination included Robert Bentley in Alabama and Dennis Daugaard in South Dakota. Both are heavily favored to return to office in the fall.

All Eyes on Mississippi

But the main event Tuesday was in Mississippi, where Mr. Cochran’s supporters had hoped the incumbent could avoid a run-off later this month, fearing that it would favor his tea party-backed opponent, in part because of the intensity of McDaniel’s supporters.

“I think a run-off probably plays to McDaniel’s advantage, probably just because of low turnout,” said Henry Barbour, who created the Mississippi Conservatives super PAC, which spent nearly $1.7 million on Mr. Cochran’s behalf.
 The winner of the run-off will face former Rep. Travis Childers, who easily won the Democratic nomination and could benefit from an extended battle on the Republican side.

The latest campaign finance reports show that Mr. Cochran has $681,000 left in the bank, while Mr. McDaniel had $237,000.

Tea Party Challenge

The Mississippi primary battle follows primary contests in Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell thumped his tea party-backed challenger, and in Georgia, where the establishment-favored candidates — Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue — advanced to a July 22 runoff, besting a couple of tea party rivals along the way.

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