Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Monday sharply criticized allies of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) for courting Democrats in last month's Republican runoff election and called for a thorough investigation into allegations of voter fraud, marking his most direct comments yet on the outcome of one of the most contentious and divisive campaigns in recent memory.
"What happened in Mississippi was appalling," Cruz said on the Mark Levin Show. "Primaries are always rough and tumble. But the conduct of the Washington D.C. machine in the Mississippi runoff was incredibly disappointing."
Cochran defeated McDaniel by some 6,700 votes in the June 24 runoff election. The senator and his allies courted Democratic voters, including many African Americans, a strategy that apparently worked. A Washington Post analysis showed that in 24 counties with a majority black population, turnout increased an average of 40 percent over the primary. In the state’s 58 other counties, the increase was 16 percent.
Democratic voters were allowed to cast ballots in the GOP runoff provided they did not vote in the Democratic primary.
Cruz said it's clear that McDaniel won a "sizable majority" of Republican voters. He repeatedly blamed the "D.C. machine" for changing the outcome of the runoff.
"The ads they ran were racially charged false attacks and they were explicit promises to continue and expand the welfare state," said Cruz.
McDaniel's campaign has alleged voter fraud may have tipped the election in Cochran's favor. On Monday, McDaniel's attorney said the campaign is continuing to look into the matter and could soon officially challenge the results. Cochran's campaign said the McDaniel allegations are without merit.
Cruz said there have been "serious allegations of voter fraud" that need to be "vigorously investigated." He stopped short of directly accusing Cochran or his allies of being at fault.
Cruz, like McDaniel this year, ran for the Senate in 2012 as an insurgent tea party candidate. He is vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. an organization designed to protect incumbent GOP senators. The freshman senator announced last summer that he would stay out of races involving incumbents, an unorthodox posture for someone in his position.
Cruz stayed out of the Mississippi primary. But his comments align him with McDaniel against his Senate colleague Cochran at a time when Republicans remain sharply divided in Mississippi.