TIME 2014 Election

Last Minute Fundraising Helped Save Thad Cochran

The outlook was not bright for Sen. Thad Cochran on June 3, when he failed to win the majority vote he needed in Mississippi’s primary to secure a spot in November’s general election. Instead, he faced a runoff election on Tuesday to Tea Party challenger and State Senator, Chris McDaniel.

The race quickly became a reflection of the larger divide between establishment Republicans and Tea Party newcomers, as the GOP—still recovering from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat by Tea Party-backed Dave Brat—rallied immediately to help fill Cochran’s campaign coffers, which were hurting after the June 3 primary.

In the three weeks leading to the runoff, the GOP led a full-force fundraising effort, making it possible for Cochran to continue running television ads, and launch the large-scale get out the vote campaign that ultimately won him the race.

Chief among the GOP’s fundraising efforts was a June 10 event held by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which raised $820,000. Among the event’s donors were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, all of whom had faced Tea Party challengers in the past. Each senator donated to Cochran’s campaign committee, Citizens For Cochran, through leadership PACs of their own. Some Republicans, like Sen. Roger Wicker, even ran phone campaigns themselves.

In all, Sen. Cochran’s campaign committee leveraged its incumbent advantage, raising almost a million dollars in its final weeks, and about 2.5 million more than did Sen. McDaniel’s committee, Friends of Chris McDaniel, overall.

But the funds didn’t stop there.

Cochran also received significant contributions in the form of independent expenditures, money that organizations can spend to advocate specifically for or against a candidate, but that must be made without that candidate’s involvement.

The Chamber of Commerce, for example, spent $700,000 in Cochran’s favor, and the group Main Street Advocacy spent $100,000.

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