This is how close the Mississippi Republican primary was

The much-anticipated Republican Senate primary in Mississippi very much lived up to the hype. At this moment, with a few precincts still out, Sen. Thad Cochran (R) and his tea party-backed challenger, Chris McDaniel, appear to be headed to a runoff.


Thad Cochran waves to supporters. (AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Joe Ellis)

How close was it? Close enough that we have to use the word "appear" in that previous sentence. With also-ran Thomas Carey picking up under 5,000 votes, neither Cochran nor McDaniel was able to break the 50 percent mark that would avoid the run-off. Apparently! Votes are still being counted.

Using counts from the Associated Press, we put together several maps showing how the race unfolded across the state. (The maps are framed in terms of McDaniel's totals because he currently leads.)

Percent of the vote for McDaniel

McDaniel's stronghold was Jones County in the southeast, which he won by 70 percent. Cochran's was Hinds County, where he beat McDaniel two-to-one.

But the vote totals differ vastly between counties, as is always the case. Cochran winning Sharkey County (west of Jackson) by 56 percentage points doesn't mean as much when you recognize that only about 400 people voted there.

Vote margin for McDaniel

In most places, the two ran pretty even. Only in a few counties (that very much stand out) did Cochran or McDaniel have a significant vote advantage.

Or, put another way: In 23 of the 82 counties in Mississippi, 28 percent of them, McDaniel and Cochran were within 100 votes of each other. (They're on the map below) Some of the counties are small, so 100 votes don't mean as much. But some are not. And if you extend the margin to 250 votes, you're talking about 45 of the 82 counties, more than half.

That is how close the race was. And that's why we don't know who won.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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