Stay In Touch, Y’Hear?

One of the more tedious political cliches involves the necessity of Members of Congress “staying in touch” with their states or districts. Sometimes the charge of losing touch is a bit literal, as with Sen. Pat Roberts’ frantic efforts to re-establish a lost physical residence in Kansas. More often it is stretched to mean keeping up with the political zeitgeist of the folks back home, real or claimed.And sometimes the argument over the issue becomes unintentionally comic, as with this exchange between Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and his Republican primary challenger Chris McDaniel, as reported by Courtney Ann Jackson of Mississippi News Now:

“Anyone who refuses to balance the budget is out of touch,” explained McDaniel. “Anyone who votes for tax increases is out of touch. The people of this state have demanded that he be a conservative. To that extent, yes his record is not conservative. So he’s out of touch.”

Cochran said, “He’s wrong. He’s flat wrong. I’m as in touch with the people of Mississippi as an elected official can be.”

Jackson doesn’t tell us if or how Cochran intends to demonstrate his in-touchness, though he’s under considerable pressure to howl at the moon or suddenly vote for every conservative cause in sight, as his Senate friends Lindsey Graham and Lamar Alexander have been doing. It’s the wrong time of year to spend every Friday at a high school football game and every Saturday in Oxford or Starkville or Hattiesburg. Since Cochran has a financial advantage in the race, and Mississippi media’s not real pricey, my guess is his image will visit a lot of living rooms between now and June 3, the primary date. But for a guy who’s been winning election campaigns in this state since 1972, he sounds a little “touchy” about the claim he’s just been off in sinful Washington too long.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.