Thad Cochran has unofficially won the Republican runoff election, beating Chris McDaniel by less than 7,000 votes. The night started out strong at the McDaniel camp, but as more numbers came in, McDaniel supporters started getting nervous. Joe Payne, a McDaniel supporter, says, "He's in the lead this minute, not in the lead the next, so we're hoping."
Hope dwindled when the Associated Press named Thad Cochran the winner just after 10 p.m. Tuesday night. Adam Yeomans, Associated Press Bureau Chief, says, "We didn't make the call until basically we had nearly 100% of the vote in last night, and it was clear that even with the numbers that might have been outstanding, if there were any affidavit ballots or provisions, there weren't going to be enough votes for McDaniel to catch up."
The Associated Press now has Cochran at an unofficial 6,692 vote lead. Preliminary counts found Jackson County flip flopping its win for McDaniel in the primaries to Cochran in the runoff, and vice versa in Hancock County, but across the state, typically democratic-leaning counties seemed to support Cochran. Yeomans also says, "In the Jackson area, in the Delta, where the turnout was a little higher, in counties he'd won before, I think that's where he picked up a number of votes." As the night continued, McDaniel supporters were growing increasingly anxious. Barry Neyrey, the Chairman of the South Mississippi Tea Party, says, "If Cochran does win, I believe America is over."
At the campaign headquarters, the mood was somber after Chris McDaniel gave his speech, but he and his supporters say the fight is not over. Scottie Nel Hughes of the Tea Party Express News Network says, "I think we're going to see some sort of fight here, and if not, I almost would even bet, whether it’s a far chance Ricowski did it, you might see, I think a write-in campaign happen. It's a long shot, but I think the people in Mississippi right now are angry about not being represented."
McDaniel has not yet stated whether or not he will contest the vote count. Thad Cochran will face Travis Childers in the November general election.