Cochran Victory Proves Once Again That Incumbents Generally Triumph

The outcomes in Mississippi and elsewhere show that ousters of incumbents are the exception that proves the rule.


It was a disappointing Tuesday for people who hoped some of their least favorite Congressional incumbents would be ousted. Six-term Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran triumphed over state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Republican primary runoff, making it likely that the incumbent will return to the Senate in November. According to Real Clear Politics:

The exhaustive Mississippi Senate primary ended in an upset Tuesday night — but not the kind where the longtime incumbent loses to a fiery insurgent.

Instead, 36-year veteran Thad Cochran, who campaigned on his Washington credentials and broadened the electorate by appealing to Democratic-leaning voters in the state, prevailed over Tea Party-backed Chris McDaniel in a runoff election.

But a bitter McDaniel refused to concede, and lashed out at the Cochran camp for courting Democratic voters in a Republican primary. Mississippi law doesn't allow for a recount, but McDaniel hinted at some kind of challenge. "We'll see you soon," he said at the end of an angry speech just before midnight.

Cochran's win provides a good example of all the unseen advantages that incumbents maintain:

The GOP establishment also rallied ardently behind him, moving to protect one of their own but also animated by a concern that the firebrand style of McDaniel — and other Tea Party candidates elsewhere — could endanger Republican chances in November. Democratic nominee Travis Childers hoped a McDaniel win would give him an opening, but Cochran's triumph virtually guarantees the seat will stay Republican, a result national party officials believed was essential to their hopes for wresting the Senate from Democratic control.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee recently hosted a fundraiser for Cochran in Washington. John McCain traveled to Mississippi on Monday to campaign for him. Gov. Phil Bryant appeared in ads touting Cochran's service in the Navy, a push for support from veterans in a state that is home to four military bases. And popular former two-term Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour ran a super PAC backing the incumbent, focusing on expanding the electorate and playing up McDaniel's past opposition to federal funding for education.

After the stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) at the hands of Tea Party challenger David Brat two weeks ago, grassroots conservatives were hopeful about their odds of taking out a few more incumbents. However, the outcomes in Mississippi and elsewhere show that ousters of incumbents are the exception that proves the rule.

Tea Party challengers also suffered defeat in New York and Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, Rep. James Lankford defeated T.W. Shannon for the Republican nomination in the upcoming Senate race. Shannon had garnered significant Tea Party support—including endorsements from Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee—but Lankford won easily.

Elsewhere, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) seems to have narrowly defeated his challenger, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Rangel is a long-serving and controversial figure: Ethics violations cost him chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee in 2010. According to The Washington Post:

With 99 percent of the vote reported, Rangel was ahead of Espaillat 47.5 percent to 43.5 percent, while two other challengers, Michael Walrond, and Yolanda Garcia had 8 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Rangel had lobbed sharp attacks at Espaillat, and called in many favors from friends in Washington.

In recent weeks, he secured endorsements and campaign appearances from former president Bill Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, among others.