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June 05, 2014 10:09 AM Childers Lite

By Ed Kilgore

It’s not clear to me at this point if the people advising Thad Cochran are telling reporters what they actually plan to do to save the six-term Senate incumbent’s career, or are just shucking and jiving and trying to sound confident while they inwardly scream. Today’s Alexander Burns story on Team Cochran doesn’t resolve that question, but does offer a very dubious-sounding strategy for a three-week runoff:

Acknowledging that they face a difficult fight against McDaniel, Cochran allies sketched out the beginnings of a plan to take on the 41-year-old litigator.
Several advisers, speaking candidly and anonymously, said that competing in the June 24 runoff will likely require the campaign to shift resources from television and radio advertising into pure get-out-the-vote operations. It will mean raising concerns about McDaniel’s electability and delivering an issue-driven message about what McDaniel’s policy views would really mean for Mississippi.
Riskiest of all, it will involve reaching out to casual voters - including independents and Democrats - to swell the electorate with Mississippians who may not have participated in this week’s first round of voting. Mississippi allows crossover voting in primaries, though voters who already cast ballots in Democratic primaries this week are barred from participating in the runoff.
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the onetime national Republican Party chairman who is one of Cochran’s foremost champions, said the senator will dislodge McDaniel supporters and “expand the electorate” with a focus on kitchen-table issues. He said it was essential for Mississippians to understand what McDaniel’s anti-government, anti-appropriation views would mean in practice - starting with the state legislator’s stated opposition to federal education spending.

So Thad Cochran’s strategy for a low-turnout Republican runoff that’s happening the day after tomorrow is to go door to door to recruit Democrats and independents who don’t tend to vote a lot in midterms to save his butt. That’s at least how I interpret what Burns is reporting. I can’t imagine that the federal-aid-to-education pitch was designed for actual Republican voters, who are in the midst of a gigantic backlash against the Common Core Education Standards because they loath the federal money involved.

There’s been some talk that if McDaniel wins the runoff then Democrat Travis Childers will run on a Cochran Lite message aimed surgically at winning independents and even some Republicans who are open to the claim that ol’ Chris is cuckoo for cocoa puffs. But it sounds like Cochran could be planning a Childers Lite campaign based on the idea that only a different electorate on June 24 can change the likely outcome.

If it works, the DSCC, which has its own electorate-reshaping cross to bear this cycle, should watch very closely and take volumes of notes.

UPDATE: A New York Times article on the same subject includes this taunting quote from Team McDaniel:

“The Cochran campaign is by all means welcome to try to make this runoff completely different from every other runoff that has been run in the history of American politics,” said Barney Keller, a spokesman for the conservative Club for Growth, which spent the most of the conservative groups against Mr. Cochran during the primary.
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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