After a news-free weekend, I googled “Chris McDaniel” this morning half-expecting to find that he had thrown in the towel in the MS GOP SEN runoff, perhaps in exchange for some quiet assurance of party-wide support in a future race for higher office. But no (per the Daily Caller‘s Neil Munro):

Volunteers working for tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in Mississippi say they have already found 20 percent of the invalid double-votes they need to cancel Sen. Thad Cochran’s business-funded runoff victory.

“We’re finished with Hinds County, and we’re up to 1,500” invalid votes, said Noel Fritsch, Daniel’s press aide.

That’s critical because McDaniel can force another runoff if he can find more invalid votes than Cochran’s roughly 7,000-vote margin-of-victory on June 24. Votes are invalidated if voters cast ballots in both the Democrats’ June 3 primary and the GOP’s run-off on June 24.

However, McDaniel can also force another election even if he can’t find 7,000 invalid ballots, said Fritsch.

“We don’t have to prove that we have 7,000 [invalid] votes…. all there needs to be is enough doubt about the election, and we’re confident about that,” he said.

That “cancel by doubt” strategy gives the McDaniel campaign an incentive to collect evidence about possible vote-buying and other potentially unethical behavior by Cochran’s campaign.

So far, there are many reports about shady outreach to Democratic voters supposedly undertaken by Cochran and his allies, particularly done by relatives of former Gov. Haley Barbour.

To translate, Team McDaniel hopes it can get a new election via plain evidence of actually invalid votes. But if that doesn’t work, their fallback plan is to raise doubts about the whole Cochran “crossover” effort, which boils down to a claim that a Republican campaign should not be able to appeal for Democratic (which in Mississippi, mostly means African-American) votes on anything other than a rigorously conservative ideological platform.

In either event, a new runoff would without much question be racially inflammatory. And if there’s not a new runoff, Cochran’s “outreach” effort will go down in conservative movement lore as a Great Betrayal ranking down there with Poppy Bush’s tax increase, to be told in hushed tones around wingnut campfires.

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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.