Cochran-McDaniel runoff race turns even nastier on the final day

The closing hours of the closely watched Mississippi Republican Senate primary promise to be as nasty and personal as the last several weeks, with the focus Monday partly on a Facebook message from the incumbent's daughter and the response from her father's opponent.

Kate Cochran, the daughter of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), posted a long message to followers last week on Facebook where she admitted that "I'm struggling with this election" because she fears that her father's record has been disparaged by his challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, and outside conservative groups with few, if any, ties to Mississippi.

"I think that Mississippians are being snookered by neocon zealots on talk radio, Fox News, and elsewhere," Kate Cochran wrote. "The New Right values extremism, obstructionism, partisanship, and--frankly--ignorance.  I am disappointed to realize that the New Right seems to want to walk hand-in-hand with the horrible strain of anti-intellectualism that sees universities as vocational schools and vilifies anyone expert in a field as somehow not living in the 'real world' or representative of 'real people.'"

Then Cochran added this:

"I think this is the reason that so many seem swayed by my father's opponent: he is valued for his lack. Lack of experience (he is not a "career politician.")  Lack of wisdom (he relies solely on Jesus, the Constitution, and common sense*--combined in the veneer of 'goodness').  Lack of judgment (he vows to refuse federal monies and to try to impede legislation).  Lack of specificity (what are 'Mississippi values'?).  Lack of perspective (how does he believe for one moment that a junior Senator from the poorest state will have any influence in Washington? How can he believe that he will not want his family to live with him in the D.C. area?).  I see these "qualities" as a disingenuous pose, engineered to appeal to the very worst in our electorate.  Hence, the illegal and immoral actions of his followers make sense--both in my mother's nursing home and at the Hinds County Courthouse--because he trades in mindless fanaticism.  I find his campaign appalling on intellectual, moral, and idealist levels.  The fact that Mississippi voters are even considering his candidacy saddens me more than I can say.  Mississippi used to be recognized as the most backward, prejudiced, ignorant holdback in our nation, hands down.  This sea change makes me very afraid that we might deserve that mantle."


Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is trying to unseat incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in a primary runoff election, speaks with supporters during a campaign rally in Madison, Miss. last week. (Reuters)

Late Sunday, the McDaniel campaign posted a response on its Facebook page that includes a black and white picture of Kate Cochran against a black backdrop. "Thad Cochran's daughter has 'damaging' words to describe CHRIS MCDANIEL..." the post reads. It includes the quote from Cochran's posting about McDaniel, that "he relies solely on Jesus, the Constitution, and common sense."

The image includes two hashtags: #ThankYouKate and #Who'sYaDaddy?

It's the second hashtag that prompted an angry response from the Cochran campaign. Spokesman Jordan Russell told The Washington Post's Robert Costa that "McDaniel's latest appalling attack on Sen. Cochran's family is further proof that he is unfit for office."

As Costa writes in Monday's Post, the Cochran campaign in recent days "has sharply focused his message on armed-services issues, hoping his years of appropriating millions for the state’s bases and his traditional GOP worldview will give him an eleventh-hour boost."

Cochran is also recruiting Democrats and independents in hopes of boosting turnout in a runoff election, where turnout historically wanes. Anyone who participated in the June 3 primaries is eligible to vote again on Tuesday.

RELATED: The two counties to watch in the Mississippi runoff

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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