New free agent acquisitions Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Chuck Woolery—former game show host of Wheel of Fortune, Love Connection and Scrabble—couldn’t quite pull off the victory. Neither could all the millions of dollars of right-wing extremist organizations like the Tea Party Patriots and Freedom Works. Trailing in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran coaxed former NFL quarterback Brett Favre out of retirement to join his “team,”—just in time to throw the game-winning “touchdown” in the final seconds to help defeat Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel in yesterday’s Republican primary runoff.
McDaniel was a right-wing radio personality and state legislator whose politically-incorrect sound bites and promise to make Mississippi “proud” by guaranteeing it would be last in everything—by refusing federal funds for the state that Cochran had successfully steered toward the poorest state in the country. Santorum claimed that voters could make a “difference” for their children and their grandchildren by voting for McDaniel; it was hard to know if he was actually making a “serious” statement, but it is clear that for Tea Party and other right-wing fanatics, their hatred of “others” is just a necessary side effect of their anti-government agenda. Somehow, a majority of the 95 percent of whites in the state who vote Republican in the state were about to lose their minds.
The Republican “establishment” in the state realized that McDaniel would be a disaster, so they rallied the support of Sen. John McCain and assorted well-known local political figures behind Cochran. But it was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce paying for a political ad featuring a longer-haired and bearded Favre reminding voters had “gambled” and won with Cochran, who brought in much needed money for education for their children. Some would say that Cochran, like Favre, just didn’t know when to “retire,” but McDaniel was definitely not “right” for a state as poor as Mississippi, where a whites presume to understand what the black population—at nearly 40 percent the largest by percentage in the country—thought was “good” for them.
Cochran himself tried to “distance” himself from his usual anti-Obama commentary in order to attract Democratic votes. But Favre’s last second pass was probably the difference between victory and defeat, as Cochran won by a bare 6,000 vote out of 380,000 cast. No doubt he was “persuaded” to intervene by the markers he owed former Gov. Haley Barbour and others for “help” with a member or two of his wayward family, but I have to admit that while I’m “disappointed” that Favre would support a Republican, out of pragmatism at least he picked the (considerably) lesser of two bad choices for the state. McDaniel has refused to concede, but his obvious fanaticism should be a lesson to anyone about the dangers of mindless disregard of consequences.