Sen. McCain action targets U.S. shipbuilders

The U.S. Senate passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act 29 Jan 2015 but only after language was removed that would repeal the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act, is a law that protects U.S. shipbuilding and merchant mariners by requiring “that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans.”

Sen. John McCain, who attempted to add the repeal of the Jones Act to the bill, stated the following in a press release:

I have long advocated for a full repeal of The Jones Act, an antiquated law that has for too long hindered free trade, made U.S. industry less competitive and raised prices for American consumers,” said Senator John McCain. “The amendment I am introducing again today would eliminate this unnecessary, protectionist restriction. According to the Congressional Research Service, it costs $6 per barrel to move crude from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast United States on a Jones Act tanker, while a foreign-flag tanker can take that same crude to a refinery in Canada for $2 per barrel – taking money directly out of the pockets of American consumers. I hope my colleagues will join in this important effort to repeal this archaic legislation to spur job creation and promote free trade

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Politico, “McCain’s amendment would result in the outsourcing of U.S. shipbuilding to foreign nations,” putting “our entire U.S. fleet in jeopardy.”

Tony Munoz, editor-in-chief of The Maritime Executive, stated, “Lifting the Jones Act would open U.S. markets to foreign competition and might decrease prices for consumers, but at what cost?” and added “McCain’s laissez-faire sentiments would actually destroy U.S. jobs, lower personal income, devastate U.S. vessel-operating companies and obliterate American shipbuilders, never mind the national security impact.”

Repeal of the Jones Act may favor free trade but would be expected to decimate the shipbuilding industry on the Gulf Coast and across the country. Having supported Sen. Thad Cochran’s 2014 re-election campaign, McCain may have expected extra support on the amendment which was soundly rejected.

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2014 State and National General Election Summary

The 114th U.S. Congress started earlier this month following a wild 2014 midterm election. The following websites capture those 2014 election results in various formats and perspectives:

2014 Election results by Congressional District (Courtesy of the New York Times).

2014 Election results by Congressional District (Courtesy of the New York Times).

MS Gulf Coast’s 2014 General Election Results

Mississippians voted overwhelmingly to support a state constitutional amendment to preserve the right to hunt and fish.  Nearly 90% of voters approved House Concurrent Resolution 30 (HCR 30) which will amend the state constitution and become the 18th state with hunting and fishing protected as a constitutional right.

Winners in the 2014 General Election:

  • U.S. Senate:  Thad Cochran
  • 4th Congressional District:  Steven Palazzo
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 08, Place 2:  Jennifer Schloegel
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 08, Place 3:  Sandy Steckler
  • County Court Judge, Place 3:  Margaret Alfonso
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 16, Place 1:  D. Neil Harris, Sr.*
  • Chancery Court Judge, District 16, Place 3:  Michael Fondren

*As of November 7th, D. Neil Harris, Sr. led the election against Paula Yancey by 18 votes with 18 affidavit ballots outstanding.

Two races will require a run-off.  In the Harrison County race for Circuit Court Judge (District 02, Place 2), Chris Schmidt earned 42% of the vote and will face Robert Fant Walker who received the second highest vote total with 34%.  In Jackson County, Mike Ezell garnered 43.9% of the vote and will face Scott McIlrath who came in second with 15.9%.

Runoff election will be November 25th.

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Mississippi’s only abortion clinic given life

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Mississippi’s 2012 law unconstitutional that would have required doctors that perform abortions in the state to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology and have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital.

While the same court upheld a law in Texas that had a similar provision, the court determined that, because the law would shutdown Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, it would create an undue burden on women by forcing them to travel outside the state to exercise “the established federal constitutional right.”

Gov. Phil Bryant says the state will appeal the ruling.

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Review of the Republican runoff

On Tuesday, June 24th, Senator Thad Cochran won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat he currently occupies.  The nastiest and craziest primary in recent memory apparently deserves an equally crazy ending.  While lobbyist Stuart Stevens wrote that the formula for victory was very simple, a look back at the results is fascinating.  The Stennis Institute remarked, “[T]he turnout for the runoff election exceeded the primary turnout by 20%, which is an astonishing fact.”

National Review echoed the thought with a similar assessment:  “It’s generally agreed that Thad Cochran squeaked out a win in Mississippi last night in part by getting Democrats, especially African Americans, to turn out.”  Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight completed the exhaustive (and fascinating) data-mining showing how Cochran’s victory correlated to black turn-out and later reported that a Cochran victory was not as implausible as pundits initially predicted.

Mississippi State’s Stennis Institute produced numerous post-runoff maps including the one below.  The colors show the vote difference between the primary and runoff for each county while the elevation shows the voter turnout.

Vote Difference from June 3rd

Change in raw vote numbers from June 3rd primary to the June 24th runoff

Turnout in DeSoto County increased in support of challenger Chris McDaniel but was overshadowed by the dramatic increase in Hinds County in support of Cochran.  The author counted 6 counties that shifted from one candidate to the other but the most significant was in Jackson County which netted more than 700 more votes for Cochran.

Runoff Results by County

However, even in counties held by McDaniel, the change in margin of victory greatly favored Cochran who received a net increase in votes in 48 of the 82 Mississippi counties.  The Stennis Institute’s full analysis with even more maps is provided in “Mississippi Primary Runoff Election, 2014.”

But how did Cochran expand the voter pool to increase turnout and win the Republican nomination?  The days following the election have shown that defining your opponent is critical to energizing potential voters.  Negative and misleading attacks are expected from those across the aisle, but Cochran used the tactic effectively against a member of his own party.  Consider this flyer that was found in traditionally Democrat precincts and posted by National Review:

GOTV Flyer for Thad Cochran

Courtesy of National Review

Like the flyer above, a “robocall” in support of Cochran stated similar positions and even implied that Cochran would not block President Obama’s agenda, a significant point that McDaniel expected would increase his support in the reputedly “deep red” state of Mississippi:

If that wasn’t enough, listen to this clip posted by Breitbart and reportedly aired on WMGO radio warning voters that the Tea Party will take away food stamps and “everything we and our families depend on that comes from Washington will be cut”:

Tea Party Republicans are shocked at the Cochran campaign’s attempt to disparage a fellow Republican Party member.  The election results and campaign tactics demonstrate the divide between establishment and Tea Party Republicans and will likely shape both the ethic and ideology of future campaigns, especially when facing an ideological purist from within one’s own party.

Cochran friend, classmate, and Ole Miss professor Curtis Wilkie, defending Cochran’s campaign in The Last Southern Gentleman, wrote on the day of the runoff, “In a rare sight for a Republican, Thad is openly seeking help in the predominantly black Mississippi Delta in the closing hours of the campaign.”  Bolstering one of McDaniel’s assertions during the campaign that Cochran has never led a conservative fight, Wilkie recalls that “He specialized in agriculture and appropriations and rarely engaged in discussions about heated ‘wedge issues’ such as abortion rights and gun control.”

A week after the election, McDaniel has yet to concede, at least in part, due to reports of voting irregularities which include a 50% increase in voter turn-out in Hinds County.  A June 25th Fox News report summarized:

Of particular interest to the McDaniel campaign was the turnout in Hinds County, which Cochran won by nearly 11,000 votes Tuesday. By contrast, Cochran won the county by 5,300 votes on June 3. Just under 25,000 total ballots were cast in Hinds County Tuesday, while 16,640 total ballots were cast on June 3.

On Fox New Channel’s “Hannity,” McDaniel stated that he intends to verify the number that voted in the June 3rd Democrat primary and illegally voted in the Republican runoff.

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Domestic dispute: Tea Party vs. Establishment

The race for the Republican nomination for the Mississippi U.S. Senate seat is redrawing the political landscape.  Senator Thad Cochran’s seniority would be expected to keep federal dollars flowing into the state but it is just that reputation that is fueling the Tea Party opposition and candidacy of Chris McDaniel.

Since the June 3rd primary in which neither Cochran nor McDaniel were able to garner more than 50% of the vote, Cochran has increased his efforts and is even appealing to Democrats who did not vote June 3rd.  He is also emphasizing how his influence has ensured the growth and stability of military bases across the state and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) in Pascagoula.  DefenseNews reports that such influence may not be all positive as efforts to add another LPD to HII’s workload may cost at least one future ship based on a 2002 agreement.

While McDaniel has bashed excessive federal spending as bankrupting our country, Cochran supporters have stated that such spending is vital to Mississippi’s economic vitality and quality of life.  For years, economic conservatives have argued that so-called establishment Republicans are merely “Democrat-light” with no clear distinction with the policies from across the political aisle.

No shrinking violet, Sarah Palin has weighed-in accusing establishment Republicans of tearing down McDaniel instead of making a case against President Obama.  She is asking voters to “send a message to the career politicians who sure seem satisfied with the trajectory our nation is on, because they sure don’t lift a finger to help elect the guys they KNOW will be the fighters for American exceptionalism in DC.”

Mississippi will settle this round of arguments in the runoff election on Tuesday, June 24th.  Anyone who voted in the Republican Primary or did not vote can vote in the runoff;  only those that voted in the Democrat Primary are unable to.

For more information:

Runoff election rundown

With Political Action Committees backing both sides, watch-out for misinformation and half-truths as advertisements and the media heat-up for the June 24th runoff election between Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

With McDaniel winning more of the June 3rd vote, the establishment backing Cochran is looking for some help from Democrats who sat out the June 3rd Primary.  What seemed absurd two weeks ago may have helped Cochran’s momentum.  Even gun-control advocate Michael Bloomberg gave $250,000 to Mississippi Conservatives PAC, the primary super PAC supporting Cochran’s reelection.

The polling data only fuels the debate.  One poll shows McDaniel with a 8-point lead.  Two days later, another shows a dead heat only to be refuted by second poll the same day saying McDaniel has a 12-point lead.

One opinion says Ingalls has shrunk during Cochran’s tenure while another says Cochran must remain our senator if the next ship is going to be funded.  All the while, McDaniel is under fire for wanting to shrink the federal government.

The big winners?  Newspapers and Democrat nominee Travis Childers!

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