The McDaniels Factor

Yesterday I observed that in suddenly veering away from a pretty simple vote of disapproval for the Iran Nuke Deal into a bizarre three-headed monster of a series of votes that will divide House from Senate and Republican from Republican, the House GOPers were again exhibiting their tendency to “talk to themselves, and to the almighty base” about their exotic preoccupations.

This tendency runs deep in conservative circles, it seems, as reflected in a weird and highly revealing item from Erick Erickson. It begins with a 2014 tweet from Donald Trump endorsing right-wing Republican Senate candidate Chris McDaniel in his primary challenge to Thad Cochran, and goes on from there:

Chris McDaniel ran for the United States Senate as a Republican. He won the Republican Primary in Mississippi, but was thrown into a runoff against Thad Cochran, the incumbent.

During the runoff, the Republican Party in Mississippi and Washington pulled out all the stops to stop McDaniel. They assailed outside conservative groups as malevolent influences in the Republican Party. They used friends in the news media to attack conservatives who strayed from the party line.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee was particularly spiteful with both their outside consultants and inside communications team, led by Brad Dayspring, attacking anyone and any group that strayed from Thad Cochran. They assailed Ted Cruz, who at the time was even a co-chair of the NRSC.

The extent to which the GOP was willing to play for keeps — largely to keep a gravy train of government waste and greed rolling — was eye opening to many conservative activists.

When Governor Rick Perry hired Henry Barbour, the nephew of Haley Barbour and one of those orchestrating the Cochran defense, many conservative activists turned from Perry and never went back.

When Scott Walker tossed Liz Mair, but stood by his Super PAC’s hiring of Brad Dayspring, conservative activists fled him too.

Many of those activists decided the party that burned them needs to be burned down. They are prepared to show as much grace and mercy to the GOP as the GOP showed them in 2014….

McDaniel’s name comes up repeatedly in conversations with conservative activists who have gone to Trump. They have concluded the GOP does not give a damn about them, so they do not give a damn about the GOP.

The chickens are coming home to roost for the GOP now. They played for keeps. They won the battle. But it is looking more and more like they are losing the war. The funniest thing about it though is that they do not realize it and do not want to realize it.

In the endless and interminable and redundant efforts of the chattering classes to figure out why Donald Trump is doing well, how many people have focused on the Chris McDaniel Factor? Nary a one, I’d wager. But the idea that a handful of activists with powerful friends are willing to put their party through hell to get revenge for a generally forgotten single Senate primary that most people outside Mississippi have long forgotten about makes as much sense as half the Trump theories.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.