JACKSON — National tea party groups are divvying up the nuts and bolts of campaigning as they rush to boost Republican Chris McDaniel’s effort to deny Sen. Thad Cochran a seventh term representing Mississippi.
The activist-focused FreedomWorks will run a door-to-door, get-out-the-vote operation ahead of the June 24 runoff. The anti-tax Club for Growth is ready to air even tougher television ads. The Tea Party Express will rally supporters with a bus tour through Mississippi next weekend.
That frees up the cash-strapped McDaniel campaign to replenish his nearly empty campaign accounts for a three-week sprint to yet another Election Day.
“I’ll be brutally honest with you: Our campaign is almost out of money,” McDaniel wrote in a fundraising plea.
His allies, however, are not.
McDaniel led Cochran in Tuesday’s primary voting by fewer than 1,400 votes but fell short of a majority, forcing the two men into an intraparty runoff that could prove costly and messy.
Outside groups, which helped the 41-year-old McDaniel mount a more-viable-than-expected challenge to the 76-year-old incumbent, were huddling to figure out how they might pick up a win, which has proved elusive for tea party-styled activists this election year.
Cochran’s allies, meanwhile, have been more muted, even as they promise to stand by the senator.
McDaniel has been out of the spotlight since Tuesday. Cochran toured a defense contractor’s manufacturing plant Thursday with no media allowed inside. The most frenzied action came from those technically independent from the candidates.
“We can’t coordinate with campaign. We can coordinate with super PACs and obviously we can coordinate with activists,” FreedomWorks chief Matt Kibbe said in an interview.
There is “an ongoing conversation among outside groups” about how to help McDaniel, Kibbe said. “Everyone feels like they’re in the same boat on this one.”
Even before Tuesday, the group’s network knocked on 100,000 doors, distributed 40,000 yard signs and passed out 10,000 bumper stickers. In all, the group counted almost 275,000 conversations with potential supporters before Tuesday’s voting began— again reminding its foes of its clout among rank-and-file conservatives.
FreedomWorks has ordered 20,000 more yard signs and 40,000 more red-white-and-blue pieces of pro-McDaniel fliers to leave at voters’ doors.
Separately, Club for Growth Action already spent almost $2.5 million to help McDaniel and urged Cochran to drop out of the runoff or else face even more spending. On Thursday, the group promised tougher criticism.
“Whoa,” Cochran said after visiting a Raytheon Co. facility about 50 miles east of Jackson. “They can relax. … I have no intention of dropping out. I have every intention of winning the election.”
And the Tea Party Express, which draws large crowds as it rumbles across the country with its anti-establishment messages, planned to return to Mississippi.
“This pivotal runoff makes Mississippi ground zero for the battle of the grass-roots conservatives versus the D.C. Republican establishment,” Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo said. “The eyes of the entire nation are on this race and we must not lose.”
Outsiders already have been a major factor in the Mississippi race. Cochran raised about three-quarters of his cash from Mississippi voters and a quarter from non-Mississippi voters. It was the inverse for McDaniel, who raised three-quarters of his cash from outside the state.
Third-party groups spent about $8.4 million in the primary, mostly on TV ads. McDaniel enjoyed a 2-to-1 tilt in his favor in outside spending.
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