JACKSON -- From Mississippi to the U.S. Capitol, mainstream Republicans expressed relief Wednesday at Sen. Thad Cochran's comeback primary victory over TEA Party challenger Chris McDaniel, highlighting anew the fissures between traditional GOP powers and challengers determined to pull the party further rightward.
McDaniel, meanwhile, complained that a number of Democrats -- most of whom are black in Mississippi -- apparently cast ballots in the GOP runoff and boosted Cochran's numbers. McDaniel refused to concede the race and said he would probe "irregularities" in Tuesday's voting.
"We must be absolutely certain that our Republican primary was won by Republican voters," McDaniel said. "In the coming days, our team will look into the irregularities to determine whether a challenge is warranted."
His insistence Democrats voting in his party's primary was a bad thing made some mainstream Republicans cringe -- and express relief Cochran, a six-term senator and former Appropriations Committee chairman, is now the heavy favorite to win re-election over Democrat Travis Childers this fall.
"I'm for more people voting, not less people voting," Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told reporters in the Capitol in Washington.
Henry Barbour, who ran a pro-Cochran Super PAC, said voters rewarded Cochran for showing "you still have to govern" even as you "defend your principles."
Cochran turned a 1,400-vote deficit to McDaniel in the primary's first round into an almost 6,800-vote runoff victory in no small part by appealing to voters who hadn't already voted in the Democratic Primary on June 3 -- a legal strategy, given Mississippi voters don't register by party.
In Washington, Republicans dismissed McDaniel's criticism of Cochran's strategy and found themselves hoping openly for more black votes in the future, though the GOP has insisted in Mississippi and elsewhere on voter ID laws that some blacks criticize as modern poll taxes.
The lone Democrat in Mississippi's congressional delegation, meanwhile, said McDaniel should blame himself if he's upset about black voters affecting a GOP primary.
"When you talk about government not having an obligation to its citizens and you use code words like 'they have lived off the government too long,"' said Rep. Bennie Thompson, "to the average black Mississippian, those code words bring up too much of the past.
"And I just think that McDaniel did as much for the Cochran turnout in the black community as the Cochran people did," said Thompson, who is black.