Decision 2014: Mississippi US Senate GOP runoff postmortem


(UPDATED 6/25 AM) With all but two precincts in Hinds County reporting, Senator Thad Cochran has improbably come back from what was to be a near certain defeat. How did he do so? Quite simply, Senator Cochran expanded the primary electorate by getting Democrats to vote in the Republican runoff – runoff turnout was 18% (or 56K) higher than it was in the primary. To appreciate the coalition (upper income voters, lower income voters, and those in the “university belt”) that propelled Senator Cochran to a runoff victory, let’s examine the results through the lens of the various regions of the state, as we did in our previous analysis.

Primary vs Runoff (maps)

Primary results by county

Primary results by county












Runoff by county

Runoff results by county











Regions of Mississippi, revisited

 Gulf Coast

Primary: 18% of the vote, 49-47% Cochran

Runoff: 16% of the vote, 50-50% Cochran, 3% increase in turnout


If any part of the state exemplifies why McDaniel couldn’t get from 49.5 t0 50.1% of the vote, the three southernmost counties (Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson) of the state were “Exhibit A.” Turnout was essentially flat in this region, and Cochran was able to get endorsements from former Senator Trent Lott (who is from Pascagoula, in Jackson County), and former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre (who is from Kiln, in Hancock County). It probably didn’t hurt, either, that as former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Cochran brought a substantial amount of recovery money to the area after Hurricane Katrina’s catastrophic devastation.


Jackson area

Primary: 18% of the vote, 58-41% Cochran

Runoff: 19% of the vote, 62-38% Cochran, 24% increase in turnout


The three counties making up metropolitan Jackson (Hinds, Madison, and Rankin) are what put Senator Cochran back in office. Turnout was up a whopping 24%, and his percentage went from 58 to 62% between the primary and the runoff. To put it another way, his primary margin of victory over Sen. McDaniel was 9600, and he increased that to 17700 in the runoff. Since his statewide margin of victory was 6300, without the increased turnout in this area, he would have lost. And while a strong Democratic vote from Hinds County (Jackson) helped, it’s also worth noting that he (Senator Cochran) carried affluent Madison County with 64% and more middle income Rankin County with 53%.


Memphis suburbs (De Soto County)

Primary: 5% of the vote, 63-36% McDaniel

Runoff: 5% of the vote, 70-30% McDaniel, 35% increase in turnout


The Memphis suburbs in DeSoto County were a stronghold for McDaniel in the primary, and came through for him in the runoff, both in terms of increase in turnout and percentage received. There was only problem for McDaniel: the Jackson area cast nearly four times as many votes as DeSoto County did, so the increased turnout only provided a limited benefit to him.


Medium sized towns

Primary: 19% of the vote, 57-42% McDaniel

Runoff: 19% of the vote, 54-46% McDaniel, 14% increase in turnout


In the primary, some of the counties in this region were pro Cochran, while others (particularly those in McDaniel’s state senate district) favored McDaniel. However, Cochran was able to increase his vote in this area, probably because of his ability to bring home the bacon. Case in point: Forrest County (Hattiesburg) is the home of the University of Southern Mississippi. While McDaniel carried this county (which is near his home in Jones County) 55-42% in the primary, he could only eke out a 51-49% runoff victory here in the runoff. The other “Cochran surge” was in Warren County (Vicksburg), which has a substantial black population. In the primary, Cochran carried this county 55-45%; he increased that to 59-41% in the runoff.


“University belt”

Primary: 3% of the vote, 65-34% Cochran

Runoff: 3% of the vote, 68-32% McDaniel, 26% increase in turnout


If any part of Mississippi would appreciate a Senator who has the ability to bring home federal dollars, it would be the counties (Lafayette and Oktibbeha) containing Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Not only did the turnout increase substantially over the primary, but Senator Cochran similarly saw an increase in the percentage of the vote he received there.


Mississippi Delta

Primary: 4% of the vote, 67-32% Cochran

Runoff: 5% of the vote, 72-28% Cochran, 38% increase in turnout


If Senator Cochran needed to expand the electorate anywhere, it was in the Delta counties where it needed to happen. The wealthy and low income constituents who are predominant here were united in their support of Senator Cochran, and he got a very strong vote from these counties, which are (1) heavily dependent on federal monies and (2) are more inclined to favor “Southern gentlemen” candidates.


Rural/Hill counties

Primary: 37% of the vote, 52-46% McDaniel

Runoff: 34% of the vote, 53-47% Cochran, 18% increase in turnout


While the rural counties east of the Delta were Senator McDaniel’s constituency, he was not able to move the needle much relative to his primary showing, and was thus unable to offset the increased turnout in Jackson and the Delta that Senator Cochran was able to generate.



Senator Cochran’s ability to build a diverse coalition of upper and lower income voters pulled him through to the finish line, and enabled him to avenge his embarrassing primary showing.