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April 08, 2014 5:53 PM Somewhat Wingnutty?

By Ed Kilgore

It’s safe to say most of the small tribe of political junkies looking at the latest survey (from Harper Polling) of likely voters in the June 3 Mississippi GOP Senate primary will focus entirely on Thad Cochran’s 17-point lead (52-35) over Chris McDaniel in what is generally considered the most likely site of a Tea Party RINO Purge.

But something else caught my attention: the ideological self-identification of these likely primary voters (nearly a fourth of whom are indies). 59% called themselves “very conservative,” 32% “somewhat conservative,” 9% “moderate,” and zippo percent “liberal.” This being Mississippi, the number of self-identified Republican “moderates” is vanishingly low, while “very conservative” voters walk very tall.

You have to wonder about those “somewhat conservative” folk. In a context where “very conservative” voters outnumber moderates by more than a six-to-one margin, are the “somewhats” being pulled to the right or standing tall for what’s left of the center? I suspect the former, but if Cochran does as well as this poll suggests he might, then it might be time for another look at the center of gravity in the GOP. It still is undoubtedly leaning hard right, but there may be some limited pushback, even in Mississippi.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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