On Tuesday, Mississippians will go to the polls to make their choices in the Republican and Democratic primaries for the U.S. Senate.
In the Democratic primary, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville faces minimal opposition and should breeze into the November general election.
Who Childers will face in November is, of course, the hottest current topic in Mississippi politics, a race pitting six-term incumbent Thad Cochran against two-term state senator Chris McDaniel.
The race has been among the most acrimonious and ugliest in recent history, as the Tea Party candidate McDaniel takes on Cochran in what is widely viewed as a fight over ideological control of the Republican Party in the state.
The bitter struggle hit a low point in recent weeks as the focus of the contest shifted from policy to scandal after police in Madison arrested four McDaniel supporters and charged them with illegally conspiring to photograph Cochran’s wife in the nursing home where she has lived since 2001 with dementia. Police investigators say Rose Cochran was photographed on Easter Sunday and her image was included in an anti-Cochran political video posted briefly online six days later. While McDaniel has condemned the act and vehemently denied any involvement, the four men charged in the photo incident are McDaniel supporters and two of them were particularly close associates of the candidate.
That ugly spectacle aside, we believe there is a clear choice in this race.
McDaniel, in true Tea Party fashion, strikes the pose of someone unwilling to compromise. He is going to Washington to wage war and take no prisoners. No negotiations. No compromises. That approach might win points among his supporters, but it suggests that McDaniel has a naive approach to how government works — and doesn’t work.
Cochran, on the other hand, has proven to be an effective, thoughtful and conciliatory leader. Over his five terms in the Senate, he has exhibited his effectiveness by the millions of dollars in funding, facilities and programs he has brought to a state ever in desperate need. Our state’s share of the military pie alone, speaks to his effectiveness. With major Air Force bases in Columbus and Biloxi, the NASA facility in Bay St. Louis, the SeaBee Base in Gulfport and the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi is a major player in our defense industry. Likewise, major research facilities at our universities also attest to the skills of our congressional delegation.
Now in his 36th year in the Senate, Cochran is tied for its third most senior member. The influence and advantages accompanying that seniority should not be discarded without good reason.
Thad Cochran’s record on behalf of Mississippians makes him the easy choice as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.