In a fresh sign of Republican turmoil, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, tea party groups and losing challenger Chris McDaniel all backed an investigation Tuesday into the June 24 Senate primary runoff in Mississippi, without offering evidence of alleged voter fraud they cited in the bitterly fought race.
One day after Sen. Thad Cochran was certified the primary winner by the state Republican Party, the denunciations of the 76-year-old lawmaker were particularly vituperative.
An appeal sent by the Madison Project under the name of former Kansas Republican Rep. Jim Ryun labelled the six-term veteran corrupt.
Cruz, a tea party favorite known for his clashes with the GOP establishment, told reporters that allies of Cochran had run racially offensive ads aimed at persuading black voters to cast ballots in the Republican primary.
On Monday evening, he said on a conservative radio program, that “even more troubling is in the past week or so we’ve seen serious allegations of voter fraud. … These allegations need to be vigorously investigated and anyone involved in criminal conduct should be prosecuted.”
McDaniel’s campaign followed with a statement of its own that cited Cruz’ remarks, underscoring the Texas senator’s standing among tea party supporters and potential donors.
The controversy came midway through a campaign year in which the Republican Party nationally has fought hard to prevent a replay of the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns in which they failed to win a Senate majority. In both cases, tea party-backed candidates won Senate primaries over more established and steadier politicians, only to prove unelectable in the fall in races that had appeared winnable for the GOP.
Favored candidates of tea party groups have lost in several primaries in other states.