How Mississippi 2014 Became the Tea Party’s Florida 2000

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 2 2014 9:26 AM

How Mississippi 2014 Became the Tea Party’s Florida 2000

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I demand an investigation—or a lawsuit

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The national media has largely moved on from Mississippi, as the June 24 runoff appeared to deal a historic defeat to Tea Party insurgents, and as it's pretty hot down there right now. In my new piece, I explain why elements of the conservative movement, which we can loosely call "the Tea Party," have dug in and are looking for a way to overturn the election results. As I was filing the piece, this news came in concerning the Texas-based "voter integrity" group.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, True the Vote says its volunteers were denied access to voting records from counties and that the sate Republican Party refused to delay certification of the results until all records were reviewed.
The group is asking a federal judge for an injunction against Hosemann and the GOP so that True the Vote may review all records related to the Republican Party primary runoff for U.S. Senate between incumbent Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel.
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The origins of that lawsuit are in the post-election push by McDaniel's campaign—which has fundraised and asked for volunteers—to pore over poll books and see whether enough people voted Democratic in the primary, then Republican in the runoff, to challenge the election. State law and a pre-election advisory by the secretary of state warned against this, and while a hasty June 24 poll-watching operation did not catch thousands of crossover voters, the dream still lives.

But as I explain in the piece, the real oomph for the Tea Party's challenge has come from a surprising source—the work of reporter Charles C. Johnson. Two days ago the freelancer posted an interview (which he admits he paid for) with a black pastor who claimed to have taken money to bribe voters. The Cochran campaign, after gawking at the audaciousness of the charge, explained yesterday that, yes, there was money given to volunteers—it was for Election Day turnout, not vote buying. But the "vote buying" story is everywhere, as is the crossover vote story. From the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer:

From RedState's Erick Erickson:

There appear to be documented irregularities of, for example, Democrats who voted in the Democratic primary voting in the Republican runoff. That’s against the rules. Photographic evidence of the ballot books suggest it happened.

Obviously, only the loudest and most passionate McDaniel supporters are working on this. Many conservatives have moved on; there's a fair amount of "give up, you're making us look bad" chatter on Twitter. My point is that an election we all interpreted as a watershed Republican primary, one that expanded the party's base, is being remembered by many conservative activists as a pure fraud. And they can wave this bloody shirt as long as they wish to.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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