In Tuesday's contentious runoff contest, senator Thad Cochran, a Republican who has represented Mississippi since his first election in 1978, defeated Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in part because the “open primary” allowed African-American Democrats to cast ballots in the GOP contest.
As a result, John King -- host of CNN's Inside Politics program -- wondered during Wednesday's edition whether Cochran will simply say “Thank you” and forget the votes he received or use the victory as a “turning point” for a larger conversation within the Republican Party about issues like voting rights.
Now that Cochran is the GOP nominee, “he's the overwhelming favorite to keep this Senate seat in Republican hands,” King said before asking: “What does he do now? Might you have an elder statesman Republican senator come back to Washington” and press his party's leaders to more openly discuss topics that affect blacks?
“You know, possibly so,” Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post replied. “That’s kind of how he ran this campaign, and certainly the way he sounded during his victory speech: ‘This was about all Mississipians.’”
When he was running ads in African-American newspapers, he talked about money that had gone to historically black colleges and universities.
He could have a partner in somebody like Rand Paul. So possibly, but it doesn’t seem like that’s where the Republican Party is right now.
“Mississippi has the highest percentage of African-American voters in the country,” King stated. Cochran and other Republicans should “look around in Alabama and South Carolina and elsewhere in the Southeast, Republican states where African-Americans are often left out.”
CNN national political reporter Peter Hamby asserted: “Cochran has never been a spotlight seeker, but I think it would actually be pretty cool.”
Hamby had nothing but praise for people in the Cochran campaign.
“You have to give a ton of credit to the Cochran team for what they did in this runoff,” the CNN reporter asserted. “They totally -- to use a cliché -- disrupted how Mississippi politics is run in this runoff.”
In order to achieve victory, the campaign attracted money from “outside interests,” funds that were used to “expand the field.”
One such effort that “a lot of people are talking about” was an advertisement run by the Chamber of Commerce that featured Brett Favre, a former star quarterback with the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League.
“Look, I think all of us were surprised” at the outcome, Hamby said. “If you talked to Cochran people in the week running up to this, they thought they were still in the game. I got a call last night with about 20 percent in from a source at the Chamber who said: 'We're going to win this thing.'”
While acknowledging the impact black voters had on the contest, Hamby stated: “I think turnout crept up across the board. The Cochran people say that, but look at Hinds County, right to the west of Jackson. That's a 60-percent African-American county, and that increased his vote margin there by 7,000 votes, and that's a great indicator of what happened.”
King concluded the discussion by stating: “There's an opportunity here” for Cochran to “come back to Washington and God forbid, there's actual competition and actual conversation for all voters across the country, which would be a good thing.”
However, as NewsBusters previously reported, King and his panelists weren't the only cable news commentators to discuss the runoff election.
While the CNN pundits attributed Cochran's win to an influx of African-American voters, Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC, came to an entirely different conclusion.
On Tuesday, Matthews invited Adam Brandon of the conservative organization FreedomWorks on the show so the host could attempt to portray the Tea Party as using a “Jim Crow-era law from 1942" to try to stifle votes by black voters for Cochran.
“Tea Party guys don't point to experts,” Matthews claimed. “They know, got sense, that if an African-American person thinks they are better off with Cochran than they are with a McDaniel, how do you stop them?”
In addition, MSNBC's Joy Reid charged on Wednesday that the Voter ID concept is a racist plot to “restrict African-American voters” even though black Democrats in Mississippi support it.
So what part did blacks actually play in the runoff election? Did they push Cochran over the top to victory, or were they prevented from reaching the voting booth by racist members of the Tea Party? It's times like these that I turn to Fox News and find out what really happened.