Updated: July 8, 2014, 3:00 PM
Tea Party groups who seemed to grudgingly concede State Sen. Chris McDaniel’s (R) loss in a a close runoff election to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate are now sending out fundraising emails to rally their members to contribute to McDaniel’s legal challenge to the results.
Both the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, influential tea party-aligned outside groups, are backing McDaniel’s quest to gather enough evidence to challenge the runoff results and possibly initiate a special election (even though legal experts call this a long shot).
The Senate Conservatives Fund, for instance, has set up an Election Challenge Fund in support of McDaniel and as of Tuesday had raised about $91,500 of the $100,000 goal it set (up from a previous goal of $50,000). On Tuesday SCF sent $70,000 to help McDaniel’s efforts to contest the runoff results.
After the runoff, the group’s president, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), released a statement that SCF was “extremely disappointed” with the runoff results, but seemed to accept them.
“We thank Chris McDaniel for standing up for conservative principles and for not being afraid to challenge the status quo in Washington, D.C,” Cuccinelli said in a statement a day after the runoff.
FreedomWorks also seemed to concede that Cochran won the nomination in the runoff’s immediate aftermath, even as they decried foul tactics to get it.
“If the only way the K Street wing of the GOP establishment can win is by courting Democrats to vote in GOP primaries, then we’ve already won,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement. “Tonight is proof that the K Street establishment is intellectually bankrupt, and we are going to have to clean it up.”
But as McDaniel and his supporters began poring over poll books from the runoff and talking about moving toward some kind of legal challenge, FreedomWorks started singing the same tune.
“This is a federal crime and requires swift action by the Department of Justice and the FBI,” FreedomWorks political director Russ Walker said. “The faith the American people have in the electoral process is critical to the success of our representative democracy. These are serious allegations that, if true, undermine the integrity of our electoral process.”
Those groups join other prominent tea party figures and aligned organizations in backing McDaniel’s hope that he can piece together a strong enough legal challenge that would end up making him the Republican nominee. True the Vote, the voter fraud boogeyman group, has also filed a suit in the hopes of helping McDaniel’s efforts (a federal judge on Monday didn’t exactly sound on board with the plaintiff’s claims).
Sarah Palin, still a favorite among conservative Republicans, has also expressed support for McDaniel’s call to investigate the runoff for voter fraud. But arguably the most notable figure to join that argument is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). As a vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which supports Cochran and strongly opposes McDaniel’s candidacy) Cruz hasn’t outright endorsed McDaniel but, on Monday, he offered arguably the most direct comments he’s ever made in support of McDaniel’s efforts to fight the runoff results.
“What we know at the outset is that Chris McDaniel won a sizable majority of the votes from Republicans who voted in the run-off,” Cruz said on Mark Levin’s radio show on Monday.
Cruz went on to say that the allegations of voter fraud (made most loudly by McDaniel’s campaign and his supporters) “need to be vigorously investigated and anyone involved in criminal conduct should be prosecuted.”