Chris McDaniel ran for the United States Senate as a Republican. He won the Republican Primary in Mississippi, but was thrown into a runoff against Thad Cochran, the incumbent.
During the runoff, the Republican Party in Mississippi and Washington pulled out all the stops to stop McDaniel. They assailed outside conservative groups as malevolent influences in the Republican Party. They used friends in the news media to attack conservatives who strayed from the party line.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee was particularly spiteful with both their outside consultants and inside communications team, led by Brad Dayspring, attacking anyone and any group that strayed from Thad Cochran. They assailed Ted Cruz, who at the time was even a co-chair of the NRSC.
The extent to which the GOP was willing to play for keeps — largely to keep a gravy train of government waste and greed rolling — was eye opening to many conservative activists.
When Governor Rick Perry hired Henry Barbour, the nephew of Haley Barbour and one of those orchestrating the Cochran defense, many conservative activists turned from Perry and never went back.
When Scott Walker tossed Liz Mair, but stood by his Super PAC’s hiring of Brad Dayspring, conservative activists fled him too.
Many of those activists decided the party that burned them needs to be burned down. They are prepared to show as much grace and mercy to the GOP as the GOP showed them in 2014.
As Scott Brand noted in National Journal’s Hotline today,
Not a single incumbent senator lost a 2014 primary, and very few in the House did either. But that win-loss record masked primary results showing incumbents—especially Republicans—weakened across the board. More and more incumbents have gotten pulled into competitive primaries since 2010. Before that time, around three-quarters of House Republicans won renomination with at least 90% of the vote. Now, only about half clear 90% support in a primary, while the share who fail to reach even 60% has risen dramatically.
— Especially in the Senate, the challengers who held the likes of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to less than 50% of their primary vote were not considered top-tier challengers. But Joe Carr (R) and others managed to capture a seething outsider, anti-establishment and turn it into significant primary support. Despite financial disadvantages, they raised “threshold money”—enough to run viable campaigns.
Brand does not even mention McDaniel, but McDaniel’s name comes up repeatedly in conversations with conservative activists who have gone to Trump. They have concluded the GOP does not give a damn about them, so they do not give a damn about the GOP.
The chickens are coming home to roost for the GOP now. They played for keeps. They won the battle. But it is looking more and more like they are losing the war. The funniest thing about it though is that they do not realize it and do not want to realize it.
It’s not like they could do anything differently anyway. They are quite happy to have Thad Cochran in office and think if they just ignore Trump he will go away. To be sure, he might, but so will a lot of voters the GOP needs.