When he was attorney general of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli was about as subtle as a pair of hot pants in a nunnery. On issues from abortion to gay rights to climate change, the ultra-conservative Republican made no bones about trying to turn back the clock to before the 1950s. So should we really be surprised by what he’s up to now?
Cuccinelli is now the president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has been pumping money into the coffers of Chris McDaniel. The tea party Republican forced a runoff against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran earlier this month and is hoping to best him when voters head back to the polls tomorrow. The New York Times reported last week that Cochran was reaching out to African American voters to help him beat back the McDaniel challenge. In response, Cuccinelli announced that his group would deploy poll watchers in Mississippi. Bald-faced intimidation much?
“The laws in Mississippi are unusually open to poll watching from the outside,” Cuccinelli told The Times. “We’re going to take full advantage of that and we’re going to lay eyes on Cochran’s effort to bring Democrats in.” He is either ignorant of or couldn’t care less about Mississippi’s violent history of blocking blacks from the ballot box. My bet is both apply.
The timing and substance of Cuccinelli’s announcement couldn’t have been more awful. Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were murdered 50 years ago last week, just one day after the voter registration drive called “Freedom Summer” got underway in Mississippi on June 15, 1964. A year earlier, Medgar Evers was murdered in his driveway. A white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith didn’t take kindly to his work registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi. Those are just two of many examples of voter intimidation in the history of a state that stubbornly continues to sport the Confederate banner within its flag.
Cochran’s appeal to African American voters — the most reliable in the Democratic Party base — to turn out for him in a Republican primary runoff speaks to his desperation. That Cuccinelli responded the way he did could be a sign that Cochran’s Hail Mary pass has a chance of working. We’ll find out tomorrow night.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj