Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, the establishment Republican candidate, beat his tea party challenger in a runoff election Tuesday. Chris McDaniel has thus far refused to concede, and said that he will pursue an investigation of potential Democratic votes for Cochran that won the incumbent the election. Cochran staged an effort to turn out black, Democratic voters in the Republican runoff, which would violate an impossible-to-enforce Mississippi law stating you must vote for your primary candidate in the general election.
The election is one of many in a string of 2014 congressional primaries being examined under the microscope for evidence of a living, breathing tea party. “Though this electoral season has seen too much focus on the simplistic is-the-tea-party-dead-or-alive narrative, McDaniel's defeat is a blow to tea party hopes, and it will fuel the already intense intraparty feud,” wrote Tim Murphy of Mother Jones.
That feud took on a new dimension when former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who supported McDaniel, said Tuesday night that she may split from the Republican Party. “If Republicans are going to act like Democrats, what’s the use in getting all gung ho about getting other Republicans in there?” Palin said on Fox News. “If Republicans aren’t going to stand strong on the planks of our platform, it does no good to get all enthused about them anymore.”
Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation echoed the former Alaska governor, saying that the tactics used by the establishment candidate proves that the "Republican In Name Only" – or RINO – wing of the party is “willing to do anything to hold on to power,” he wrote in a blog post declaring "war" against the establishment wing of the GOP. “The RINO establishment thinks they can use all kinds of underhanded tricks to win. They also think that conservatives will simply accept the results and fall in line,” he wrote. “The Republican Establishment thinks they have fought back an insurrection from conservatives and now we will meekly fall in line in November and support a RINO who needs Democrats to win? Never.”
The constantly flip-flopping narrative on the tea party’s future has again flopped towards extinction, writes Slate’s David Weigel. “Every national Tea Party group engaged in Mississippi at some level – this was the race of the year – and all of them walk away wounded,” he wrote. “FreedomWorks just looks the worst, having crowed about its grassroots effort in the state and having been left explaining (in a statement) that ‘if the only way the K Street wing of the GOP establishment can win is by courting Democrats ... then we've already won.’ Sure, whatever!”