Marshall County Republicans have condemned Mississippi's longtime Senator Thad Cochran for being what they view as not sufficiently Tea Party. This is the first instance I'm aware of of a county political party taking such action.
Keep in mind that Cochran is Mississippi's first statewide elected Republican official since Reconstruction. That's nothing to scoff at. It is no coincidence that this resolution was issued while rumors are circulating that a leading member of the Tea Party Senate Conservative Coalition is mulling a primary challenge to Cochran.
In 2008, Cochran lost Marshall County by roughly 1,400 votes to his Democratic challenger. He received 100 fewer votes in the county than his Republican colleague, Roger Wicker, who was running in a special election, and got about 3,700 less votes less than then-Congressman Travis Childers. At the end of the day, losing the faith of Marshall County Republicans isn't likely to have Cochran losing any sleep.
The actions taken by Marshall County Republicans suggest that the Tea Party momentum is in full swing. This party is gleefully taking steps to spread the word across the state about what they have done and essentially daring the state party to stop them. It should set off alarms to Republican elected officials and potential candidates across the state.
State Representatives Steve Massengill (R-Hickory Flat) and Bill Kinkade (R-Byhalia) have districts that include portions of Marshall County. The test will soon be whether Massengill and Kinkade can pass muster with the Tea Party leadership of Marshall County Republicans. If they do not, they could face a disapproval resolution like Cochran and/or face a primary challenger with Tea Party backing.
The Tea Party has taken over county parties like Marshall while the Mississippi Republican Party is happy to let this take place. Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef even went on the record as saying
"The fact is there is no major split between the grassroots folks who call themselves tea party members and those grassroots Republicans. We have worked together with the tea party folks and will continue to do so. They get vilified all the time and it is wrong and hypocritical."There you have it: the latest battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. For those keeping score, this round goes to the Tea Party.