Josh Marshall helps connect the dots today in what was really going on in the effort–now the subject of criminal conspiracy charges against three people other than the original suspect, blogger “Constitutional Clayton” Kelly–to take photos of Rose Cochran in a Mississippi nursing facility:

Whether or not McDaniel had any role in this, his campaign has clearly been sending out a lot of opposition research in the last couple weeks trying to portray Cochran as someone who doesn’t really live in Mississippi any more and might be carrying on a relationship with a longtime member of his staff. No evidence at all has surfaced for the latter charge. But it was clearly the subtext of this story that appeared earlier this month at

So, as near as I can figure it, the effort to photograph or video Mrs. Cochran was part of building or putting an exclamation point after this narrative about Cochran, which very much was coming out of the McDaniel campaign. And that’s of an out of touch Senator who’s not only abandoned his home state but more cuttingly abandoned his wife.

Showing Cochran’s wife – who is undoubtedly in a pitiable and probably hard to see condition – was meant to drive home the emotional impact of this portrayal of Sen. Cochran.

Ah, now I get it. The idea of the 76-year-old Cochran carrying on a torrid affair with a staff member was very much a subsidiary smear. And in fact, as the Breitbart story Josh mentions suggests, the focus of Cochran’s opponents on the staffer began with the claim–backed up by a couple of stupid statements of residency by Cochran himself–that the senator actually lived in a DC apartment owned by his executive assistant.

As Josh notes, this whole meme makes sense from the wingnut point of view: Cochran had “gone native” in Washington, forgetting his proud reactionary roots in Mississippi and abandoning its values and his own afflicted wife in order to pursue the bright lights and evil ways of the Emerald City. In a sense, Rose Cochran herself was intended to serve as a living metaphor for the Spurned Magnolia of righteous Mississippi conservatism. That was a powerful enough image to the perps here that they were willing to risk a stunt that has blown up so spectacularly.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.