Tea Party Resorts to Poll Monitoring for Miss. Senate Election

In response to longtime-establishment Senator Thad Cochran's outreach to Democrats, Tea Party organizations plan to deploy poll watchers for tomorrow's Republican senate runoff election in Mississippi.

According to The New York Times, supporters of Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel (who almost beat Cochran outright in the primary) are worried about Cochran's outreach to black Democrats. At a Tea Party Express rally over the weekend, McDaniel supporter Sue Barnett "suggested that Cochran's campaign had hired a community organizer to pay blacks to show up at the polls on Tuesday."

Legally, all Mississippi residents can vote tomorrow in the runoff if they didn't already vote in the Democratic primary. Cochran's campaign has enlisted black pastors to help get out the vote, and many see him as the better pick in this fight. "In tough times, you've got to do some unusual things," Bishop Ronnie C. Crudup Sr., a pastor of the New Horizon Church International in Jackson, told the Times last week. "You've got to be willing to cross the line sometimes, and go over to some strange places for our interests." Crudup, along with other black leaders in Mississippi, is being paid by the super-PAC Mississippi Conservatives to help "lift black turnout" tomorrow.

McDaniel supporters aren't having it. They're getting an assist from Ken Cuccinelli, the guy who was too conservative to win the 2013 Virginia governor's race. Cuccinelli, who now heads the Senate Conservatives Fund, tells the Times,

The laws in Mississippi are unusually open to poll watching from the outside. We're going to take full advantage of that and we're going to lay eyes on Cochran's effort to bring Democrats in. And of course, if they voted in primaries, that's illegal.

Emphasis added. Freedomworks and Tea Party Patriots are joining SCF to deploy poll watchers in areas where Cochran has reached out to black voters. Poll watchers, who will likely need McDaniel's authorization to actually challenge any votes, are an ugly reminder of black voter intimidation and larger civil rights struggles that have plagued Mississippi's history.

Of course, McDaniel's campaign has tried to skirt around the issue of race when discussing Cochran's outreach efforts. McDaniel said last week that this "has nothing to do with [black voters] — this is about liberal Democrats."

[Image via AP]