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December 06, 2013 2:49 PM Mississippi’s Thad Cochran to Run for a Seventh Term

By Ryan Cooper

There was some question about whether the aging senator was up for another term. But the Times has the goods:

While Mr. Cochran, who turns 76 on Saturday, has the support of many leading Republicans in the state, he is already facing opposition from Chris McDaniel, 41, a state senator aligned with the Tea Party who announced his candidacy in October and has won the support of some conservative groups.
Mr. Cochran, who has raised less than $1 million for his re-election, had been thought to be leaning toward retirement. But Mississippi Republicans said they believed Mr. McDaniel’s challenge and pleas from powerful figures across the state that Mr. Cochran seek another term prompted the senator to mount what will probably be his final campaign.

The clash here is between basic models of political action. Back in the old days (eg, 2009), legislative perks were an integral part of passing laws. Legislators regarded a bit of pork as legitimate grounds for compromise. “Sure, I voted for the passing the healthcare law, but I got us this sweet bridge!” But these days, pork is actively hated, and especially on the right, rigid ideological purity is the most important thing.

Thus Ben Nelson’s infamous “cornhusker kickback” was despised even in Nebraska itself. Pork is already a big issue in the Mississippi race:

Mr. McDaniel has sought to seize on the new anti-spending fervor, casting Mr. Cochran — who has delivered billions of dollars in federal spending projects to his impoverished state — as an avatar of a bygone political culture.
“The national debt is the greatest moral crisis of this generation,” Mr. McDaniel said in announcing his candidacy in October. “So, let’s go forth from this place making it perfectly clear that the era of big spending is over. The age of appropriations must end.”

On the other side, the establishment that benefits from government largesse:

Mr. Cochran is a formidable figure in a state that has long relied on federal largess and that rarely turns over its Senate seats. He will have the support of Mississippi’s political and business establishment, which are deeply worried about what losing Mr. Cochran would mean to a state that, without him, would have little seniority in its congressional delegation.

It remains to be seen whether conservative business elites have fully come to terms with the implications of a rigid anti-spending posture. But should they really mobilize against the Tea Party, it could be a serious fight. Keep your eyes peeled on this one.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper

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