COMMENTARY | Two Republican primary contests, one in Mississippi and the other in Iowa, provided some indication that in the establishment wing vs. the tea party wing, the latter still has quite a bit of fight left, despite whet pundits have previously concluded.
It looks like that the Sen. Thad Cochran/state Sen, Chris McDaniel contest in Mississippi is headed for a runoff on June 24. Cochran was heavily favored by the establishment and was buoyed by an incident when overzealous McDaniel supporters were caught photographing his wife, now being cared for dementia in a nursing home. However this did not quite counteract the feeling among Mississippi voters that Cochran had been in Washington for too long. Had it not been for the nursing home incident, McDaniel likely would have won outright. He will still likely win in the runoff, where only the most fervent of voters show up, and in red state Mississippi will then likely carry the general election.
In Iowa, the colorful state Sen. Joni Ernst easily won the nomination to replace outgoing Sen. Tom Harkin, an uber liberal Democrat. Ernst had catapulted herself to national prominence when she cut a now classic campaign commercial in which she boasted of castrating pigs in her youth and promised to do the same in Washington. She built up a persona of a pistol packing, motorcycle riding “mother, soldier and conservative,’ a folksy image that was wrapped up in a cunning politician who managed to get support of both tea party people like Sarah Palin and more establishment types like Mitt Romney. Her victory in November is a key to a Republican takeover of the Senate.
The major takeaway from these latest primaries is that who comes out on top in Republican contests depends largely on the quality of the candidates and not what kind of label the media places on them. In Mississippi and Iowa that is decidedly tea party, though in the former by a nose.