Mississippi Senate Race 2014: ABC News' '14 For 14'

PHOTO: Senator Thad Cochran approaches the Senate floor on May 13, 2014 and Miss. Senator Chris McDaniel speaks to a town hall meeting in Ocean Springs, Miss. on March 18, 2014.

ABC News' "14 For 14" project is documenting 14 races that matter between now and November. This page will be updated throughout the year. See the full list of 2014 midterm election contests the ABC News political team is tracking.

THE PLAYERS

Sen. Thad Cochran (Incumbent)
Republican
Served as a U.S. Senator from Mississippi since 1978; served in the House previously since 1972
Age: 76 (born: December 7, 1937)

State Sen. Chris McDaniel
Republican
Served in Mississippi State Senate since 2008
Age: 41 (born: June 28, 1972)

THE STAKES

It’s the dirtiest primary this year and thanks to neither candidate clearing 50 percent on the primary election on June 3rd, it continues with a re-match on June 24th. The establishment forces are squarely behind six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran while the tea party has State Sen. Chris McDaniel and neither side seems to be backing down. McDaniel came in ahead by half a percentage point, less than 1,400 votes, and runoffs have been notoriously difficult for incumbents, but former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who is behind the pro-Cochran superpac Mississippi Conservatives told ABC News he will stay in the fight. “We are not going to let a bunch of people from Washington or New York dictate who represents Mississippi in the U.S. Senate,” Barbour said, noting tea party groups that have backed McDaniel like “Club for Growth or FreedomWorks…those guys couldn’t care less about Mississippi,” Barbour said. “They wouldn’t know Pascagoula from Pontotoc.” Barney Keller, spokesman for conservative anti-tax Club for Growth, hit back saying Barbour is “losing a race in his own backyard” and other tea party groups like FreedomWorks are in the state working until the end. It’s just a taste of the divisiveness and nastiness that has been going on for months in the Magnolia State. It came to a head, and grabbed headlines, in April when a McDaniel supporter sneaked into a nursing home where Cochran’s bedridden wife has lived for over a decade with dementia. Once inside, the McDaniel supporter proceeded to secretly film the wife of the three-term congressman-turned-senator and then put the video online. McDaniel disavowed the act and says he has no relationship with the conservative blogger. Four people were arrested. That has mostly died down, although there is more time now for it to rear its head and continue to develop. It is likely to be a close one and it’s possible Eric Cantor’s shocking loss could embolden the tea party even more. One thing that’s clear: it is a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

THE OUTLOOK

Polling is scarce in this race, but just looking at the results from primary night makes it clear it will be a tight one, although incumbents tend to be at a disadvantage in run-offs. Of course, some in the state believe the primary results could serve as a wake-up call to Cochran supporters who sat out the primary. When it comes to the general election, despite Mississippi’s red-state political heritage, some political commentators have said that if McDaniel is victorious, then former Rep. Travis Childers, the Democratic Senate nominee, could have had a better shot at winning the general election. Throughout the primary, the Mississippi Conservatives super PAC pounded McDaniel and recently highlighted some controversial statements he made during his time as a talk radio host, saying McDaniel would “embarrass” the state. It’s something we are likely to see in the general election as well, if McDaniel wins. Mississippi GOP Chairman Joe Nosef says it’s the bruising primary battle, which continues on, that will make the general election more competitive. “Because we’ve had this race, obviously, we are going to have a tougher general election than we would have had because we have had no general election,” Nosef said, adding they are “ready for the challenge” and will focus on telling voters who are “upset after the primary and may sit out the general election or vote for the Democrat, why it does not advance the causes they believe in.”

KEY DATES

June 24, 2014: Run-Off

IN THE NEWS

Haley Barbour Not Backing Down in ‘Nasty’ Mississippi Race

Mississippi Senate GOP Brawl Looks Headed for a Runoff

Cochran, McDaniel Rumble in Miss. GOP Runoff

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