- - Sunday, June 15, 2014

On June 24, Mississippi voters will go back to the polls for a run-off election between Sen. Thad Cochran and tea party challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Over the last few weeks, Cochran has displayed strange and erratic behavior. Now, regardless of policy differences, it is obvious Cochran must be replaced as the senator from Mississippi.

During the campaign before the primary, many people had generally assumed that Cochran would cruise to re-election. Cochran made few public appearances during the campaign. Only towards the end, when it became obvious McDaniel was a serious threat, did Cochran make a few appearances and allow media interviews.

One of those reporters was Mollie Ball from The Atlantic. She reported that she interviewed Cochran, then 30 minutes later Cochran came up to her and introduced himself as if they had never met.

In the last few days, he has done a couple of things that are simply bizarre. On Thursday in an interview with Fox News, he claimed he did not know that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had been defeated in the Virginia primary. On Wednesday, everyone knew Cantor had been defeated. Even the homeless guy who panhandles at the Chinatown Metro station stop in Washington knew that Cantor had been defeated.

Later, Cochran’s team claimed that he was just joking.

That comment came only a day after he made a remark that left everyone wondering. Cochran was reminiscing about his childhood, saying his childhood activities ranged from “picking up pecans, from that, to all kind of indecent things with animals.”

The audience laughed about that, but according to reporters who were there, Cochran’s facial expression never changed. He never gave an indication it was a joke. A day later he claimed he could not remember saying anything about “indecent things with animals.”

Reporters and others who have followed him on the campaign trail say at times he seems confused.

Campaigning for political office can be a painful, brutal and exhausting experience.

But all of those gaffes paint a much more damning picture of Thad Cochran. It points to a man whose mental faculties are no longer there.

For most of the campaign, Cochran has relied on surrogates to wage his campaign. Those surrogates are mostly from the Haley Barbour political machine in Mississippi.

Thad Cochran is a gravy train for them, with his unending votes for pork for Mississippi. But with Cochran’s apparent mental deficiencies, people now have to ask if we are seeing a Washington political version of “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

Instead of propping up a dead guy with drinks and cigarettes at a party, are special interests propping up a senator with declining mental capabilities to keep him voting for billions of dollars in pork-barrel projects that benefit Mississippi as well as other friends and supporters?

Republicans are hoping to take control of the Senate after the elections in November. Part of their calculations includes holding on to the Mississippi Senate seat now held by Thad Cochran.

Mississippi may be a very red state, but if Thad Cochran wins the runoff against Chris McDaniel, that seat may well be in jeopardy because of Cochran’s erratic behavior.

At this point, the contrast between Chris McDaniel and Thad Cochran is almost irrelevant. Cochran’s record at this point is almost irrelevant as well. It is plainly obvious that Thad Cochran, due to age or disease, no longer has the mental ability to serve as a United States senator.

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