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June 27, 2014 11:33 AM The “Conspiracy” in Mississippi

By Ed Kilgore

Three days after his upset defeat in the MS GOP SEN runoff, Chris McDaniel is still keeping his counsel on what he might or might not do to challenge the results. All but one of the national conservative groups (the Tea Party Patriots being the exception) have written off the contest and moved on. And while there is some anecdotal evidence—much of it not necessarily credible—of plain violations of the law (people who voted in the Democratic primary on June 3 being allowed to participate in the runoff), it seems unlikely it’s sufficient to close a 6,000-vote deficit or mount a legal challenge to the outcome.

If that’s all accurate, that means what McDaniel may be pondering is an extremely perilous challenge based on Mississippi’s silly, unenforceable and probably unconstitutional law limiting primary participation to those who “intend” to support the party in the next general election. Here’s what he told Sean Hannity earlier this week:

McDaniel says Cochran’s campaign brought in Democrats to steal the GOP primary. He told Hannity he might launch a court challenge on “a civil conspiracy to violate state law.”

Sounds like given the inability of anyone without divine omniscience to establish individual violation of the “intent” law, McDaniel may claim that the open Cochran campaign appeals for crossover votes amount to a conspiracy to encourage violation of that law.

Legal niceties aside, this will come down to a toxic claim that by appealing to Democrats—which in Mississippi mostly means African-Americans—Cochran was “stealing the election.” Given Mississippi’s history, I don’t think this would redound to the benefit of a Republican Party struggling to overcome its reputation as a sort of national redoubt for Old White People, or of a conservative movement whose denizens become crazy furious (as my Twitter account can attest) at any suggestion “race” ever enters their minds.

As the days go by and Team McDaniel’s accusation that black people voting in “their” primary constitutes voter fraud hangs in the air, you wonder if he’ll be able to walk any of this back. Mark my words: if McDaniel does move forward with a conspiracy charge, “Establishment Republicans” may ultimately wish he had won the runoff after all.

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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