Republican Senators Shrug at Endless Mississippi Drama

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 8 2014 2:55 PM

Republican Senators Shrug at Endless Mississippi Drama

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Let's move on from Mississippi, shall we?

Photo by Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

Ted Cruz's hearty endorsement of the Tea Party's challenges in Mississippi has not roiled Washington like you might think. The ongoing challenges in the state—the election-watching group True the Vote just filed a suit—are not being dismissed or belittled by other Republican senators. They want to move on, sure, but they're not exactly ready to go back on years of rhetoric about vote inegrity.

When asked about the challenges, Sen. Marco Rubio nodded at Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party and outside groups. "They have a right to do that legally," he said. Many elections in America end up being looked at for illegalities. If there are illegalities, they should be exposed and prosecuted. My view of it is, in the absence of evidence on that front, we should move forward and not just retain that seat but win other seats. My interest is in having a Republican majority in the Senate."

Rubio, of course, won his seat in 2010 after running so far ahead of NRSC pick and Gov. Charlie Crist that the former front-runner bailed on his party, never to return.

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"I thought it was foolish of the Republican establishment not to support me in that race," said Rubio, "and to stay out of the primary. But I also thought it was up to the voters in Mississippi to pick their nominee. We're past that now. We've had an election. If there were irregularities, or fraud, they have every right to investigate that."

Was Rubio the wrong person to ask? Not really—no one disagreed.

"It's a free country," said Sen. Lindsey Graham when asked about the challenges. "It does not help with the party, but every candidate and every group of supporters of a candidate has a right to do what they're doing. They're not doing anything illegal. They're exercising their rights under the law. I hope when the challenges run out and Thad is declared the winner, they get behind Thad."

Later, the Hill's Cameron Joseph put a similar question to Sen. John McCain, who pleaded ignorance about exactly what Cruz had done thus far in Mississippi. "He has supported candidates in the past, raised money for candidates, who've run against incumbent Republicans," he said. "I don't quite understand the logic."

But did he think Cruz was damaging his own role with the NRSC?

"No, it's a free country."

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics