Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) won a hotly contested primary run-off election Tuesday against tea party challenger State Sen. Chris McDaniel, and the conservative entertainment complex is pissed. Glenn Beck actually fired a rifle on his show to illustrate his disgust. Sarah Palin threatened to leave the Republican Party. Laura Ingraham accused Cochran of “race-baiting.” McDaniel himself refused to concede. But the most ironic, racially-charged and whiny reaction came from Rush Limbaugh.
We’ll swing back to Limbaugh’s remarks presently, but it turns out that Cochran won due to a not insignificant number of African-Americans and Democrats voting for the GOP incumbent in the open primary, ostensibly because Cochran convinced them they probably don’t want an extreme tea party candidate walking away with Cochran’s Senate seat. It bears repeating that it was an open primary, which means it’s perfectly legal to vote in any primary irrespective of party.
FiveThirtyEight confirmed that by courting Democrats and African-Americans, Cochran was able to boost his turnout numbers just enough to top McDaniel, 51 percent to 49 percent.
About 375,000 voters showed up Tuesday compared with 318,904 on June 3, an increase of more than 17 percent. Cochran raised his vote total by more than 38,000 votes, while McDaniel pulled in only an additional 30,000. That was more than enough to erase McDaniel’s 1,386 vote lead in the first round.
Cochran’s campaign explicitly tried to increase his turnout in the runoff by bringing Democratic-leaning African-Americans to the polls. [...] we have county-level results to go on, and that data suggests that traditionally Democratic voters provided Cochran with his margin of victory.