Wednesday, June 25, 2014

So, what does last night mean for Travis Childers?

It's no secret that a McDaniel victory last night would have been a boon to Democratic senatorial nominee Travis Childers.  He would have begun as a favorite in the polls, and would have become the prohibitive favorite within a week or so as Thad-supporting Republican voters recoiled at McDaniel's rhetoric.  National money would have flowed in like manna from heaven.  And it certainly appeared like that was all about to take place.

Then Democrats rushed to the polls to vote for Cochran, and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  The fact that they did that speaks volumes about how a sizable chunk of Mississippi Democrats feel about the competency of the Mississippi Democratic Party and the electorate as a whole.  But contrary to what some are saying, it doesn't say anything about the character of those crossover voters.  They simply don't think a Democrat can win a federal election statewide, and I don't blame them for feeling that way.  Democratic candidates not named Jim Hood haven't exactly given them much to believe in lately.

Now that we have the table set for a Cochran-Childers race, does Travis Childers stand a chance?  I haven't completed my analysis of the numbers from last night, but it appears to me that the answer is yes.  Here's why:  If the Democrats who put Cochran over the top last night come home, and if McDaniel voters split away from the Cochran camp, then we have exactly the same statistical scenario Democrats were counting on to beat McDaniel, which was a splintered Republican vote and a strong Democratic turnout.

Until I can crunch the numbers a good bit more, all I've got is this back-of-the-napkin-style analysis.  It appears as though Cochran got around 40,000 Democrats to vote for him yesterday.  McDaniel had approximately 185,000 voters.  Looking at the 2007 Mississippi gubernatorial race, which is an imperfect comparison for many reasons, but still the best comparison available in my estimation, Haley Barbour received 430,807 votes to John Arthur Eaves, Jr.'s 313,232.  If you take 40,000 from Barbour's '07 number, and then figure in a third of McDaniel's voters staying home or voting for McDaniel via write-in, the GOP number shrinks to 329,757, a mere 16,000-vote advantage over Eaves's '07 number.  When you factor in the differences between Eaves '07 and Childers '14, it is certainly not inconceivable that Childers could substantially best the Eaves numbers.

So while this path for Childers certainly isn't as easy as the path to victory over McDaniel, a Childers victory in November remains a very realistic possibility.

Footnote:  This post is written before McDaniel makes his intentions clear.  He certainly appeared to be soldiering on last night, but no one knows if that passion will hold.  One option for McDaniel is to rage against the MSGOP machine from now through November, possibly raising his profile for a statewide run in 2015.  If he is to do that, then his effect on the Cochran-Childers race could be substantial.


Anonymous said...

Yep. We don't think much of the state dem party. The reason is that we can't see them doing anything. In the last governor's election, the dem candidate played nice and got his behind handed to him. We are desperate for a party that will make the arguments and truly battle for votes. I know the name of the state dem chair, but I don't know of a single worthwhile thing he has done to advance the cause of ending one-party rule in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Can you really expect tea partiers, anti-government folks, who supported McDaniel to vote for a Democrat? I feel that's highly unlikely, especially in MS.

Matt Eichelberger said...

Anonymous at 1:53, I understand your concern. I don't agree with you, but I certainly understand. Rickey Cole, the Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, inherited a mess. The finances were out of control, and the infrastructure of the party was so rusty as to be largely unusable in many parts of the state. The stuff he's been working on (paying off the Party's debts, organizing at the precinct level) doesn't lead to sexy headlines, but it does pay off. Take a look at the mayoral elections last year, in which Democrats swept the hotly contested races, and you'll see that the Mississippi Democratic Party has turned a major corner.

lsuguy, it's not that I expect a sizable number those Tea Party folks to vote for Childers (although some will), it's that it is entirely possible for a good portion of them to stay home.

Zorek Richards said...

I consider it to be one of those "d'oh" moments in politics. Democrats voted for Cochran while the Cochran campaign declared two things: 1) Only Cochran could win against a Democrat in November and 2) Cochran needs your help getting him elected. Neither of those messages were ever hidden so clearly the Democrats who votes for Cochran helped defeat Childers in November. IMHO

Q said...

Aren't you forgetting that a lot of Democrats are going to be voting Cochran?

I mean, I'm liberal and I would consider myself undecided right now -- Cochran's done so much for Mississippi and we need him up there.

Can you really rely on Childers to get almost all of the Democratic-leaners against Cochran? I can't, and that's why I suspect Childers loses by double digits. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

With Cochran on the ticket I can't see Democratic voters showing up in the numbers to vote for Childers that he would need in order to win. Unless Obama was also on the ballot the numbers just don't add up. I held my nose and voted for McDaniel because I saw this as giving Childers a chance. We have no chance now.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're considering the true reason why many Democrats voted for Cochran. I suppose it's a given that people would consider the MS Dems to be a weak party, so yes that is part of it. But, I think most Dems voted out of fear of the possibility of McDaniel winning the general election. It was a vote against McDaniel all the way.

A vote against that possibility goes hand in hand with the lack of confidence in the MS Dems, but those are two separate reasons. I think most, but not all, of the Dems who voted for Cochran will vote for Childers in the general.

Matt Eichelberger said...

10:56, I agree with you. I don't think many Mississippi Democrats crossing over and voting for Thad actually have a pretty dark view of the Mississippi electorate as a whole. They were genuinely concerned that their fellow Mississippians would elect McDaniel.

The polling never showed that, by the way.