Speed Reads

2014 Watch

Could a Mississippi Tea Party candidate spoil the GOP's Senate takeover hopes?

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The Tea Party has so far been unsuccessful in its attempts to pick off entrenched GOPers via primary campaigns this election cycle. That may all change Tuesday in Mississippi, where a strong challenger could knock off a sitting senator — and in doing so draw Democrats an easier route to maintaining their Senate edge.

The Tea Party vs. Establishment dichotomy is a bit reductive, but it fits the fight between state Sen. Chris McDaniel — endorsed by Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, among others — and incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. And unlike other upstart challengers, McDaniel has a decent chance to win; scarce polling on the race shows him running even with Cochran.

Though presumed Democratic candidate Travis Childers is a long shot to win regardless of who secures the GOP nomination, he'd certainly fare better against the more volatile, lesser-known McDaniel. In a best-case scenario for Democrats, McDaniel tanks his own campaign by turning into another Richard Mourdock, the former Indiana GOP Senate candidate who won the party primary, then bombed in the general election after saying pregnancies resulting from rape were "something that God intended to happen."

Is a repeat of that scenario unlikely? Absolutely. But Democrats would still rather see the Tea Party emerge victorious Tuesday, if only to make one more Senate race a little more winnable for them come November.