The showdown between Cochran, who is seeking his seventh Senate
term, and Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel highlights a busy day
of voting across the country as eight states hold primaries to
select nominees for the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
The Mississippi contest gives Tea Party activists, who have lost a
series of high-profile primaries this year to Republicans backed by
the party's establishment, another chance to show they still have
the political clout to upset an incumbent.
The tight race became even more unpredictable in the last two weeks
after a local blogger ignited a political furor by entering a
nursing home to take a photo of Cochran's wife, who suffers from
dementia, and post it on the Internet.
McDaniel denied any connection with the incident, which led to
criminal charges against four of his supporters. The two sides
accused each other of dirty politics, and the controversy has
dominated the race's closing stretch.
"Had enough?" the narrator of a Cochran attack ad on the issue
asked. McDaniel responded with an ad saying "nobody said changing
Washington D.C. was going to be easy."
During the campaign, McDaniel, 41, had argued Cochran was not
conservative enough and it was time for new blood. Cochran, 76, said
his experience would benefit the state.
Outside conservative outside groups like the anti-tax Club for
Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund spent heavily to help McDaniel,
who also gained endorsements from Tea Party favorites such as former
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
The primary outcome in Mississippi is unlikely to affect control of
the U.S. Senate in November, when Republicans need to gain six seats
for a majority. Either Cochran or McDaniel will be a heavy favorite
against Democratic former Representative Travis Childers in deeply
[to top of second column]
The other states voting on Tuesday are Iowa, Alabama, California,
Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.
The Republican Senate primary in hotly contested Iowa, a state that
is key to Republican hopes for a majority, features a big field
battling for the right to take on Democratic Representative Bruce
Braley in November.
State Senator Joni Ernst, who got national attention for an ad
featuring her experience at hog castration, is expected to finish
first in the primary but needs to win at least 35 percent of the
vote to avoid having the nominee decided by a party convention where
activists can play a deciding role.
The governor's race leads the primary action in California, where
the top two finishers regardless of party meet in November.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown is likely to grab the top spot,
while Republicans Neel Kashkari, a former Treasury official who led
the department's Troubled Assets Relief Program, and state
legislator Tim Donnelly are the prime contenders for second place.
(Editing by Caren Bohan and Lisa Shumaker)
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