The Mississippi establishment GOP is wondering, “Wha’ happened?” after Tuesday’s primary. Their man, Thad Cochran, came in second in a field of three. A close second, admittedly, but still second. (See yesterday’s post.)

Their political machine is spinning up in the face of a run-off election against Chris McDaniel in a few weeks. None of the candidates acquired the needed 50% plus one vote to win the primary.

EDITORIAL: Mississippi vote rattles Cochran, Republican country club

Angry Republicans put their pallid party establishment on due notice

By THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chris McDaniel promises a victory to a late night audience Tuesday July 3, 2014, at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg, Miss. McDaniel and six-term Sen. Thad Cochran dueled inconclusively at close quarters in Mississippi's primary election Tuesday night. (AP Photo/George Clark)

Chris McDaniel promises a victory to a late night audience at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg, Miss. (AP Photo/George Clark)

Taking out an incumbent U.S. senator is not easy. Nine of 10 senators up for re-election in the last congressional elections held their seats. This kind of job security makes the Senate a bit of a country club, where the attitude of “going along to get along” ensures a life of relative ease and comfort.

Tea Party activists have been itching to cancel a few of those country club memberships and invite conservatives of a deeper shade of red to the club. They have a shot now in Mississippi, where six-term Sen. Thad Cochran trailed state Sen. Chris McDaniel by less than a percentage point — 49.5 percent to 48.9 percent. Mr. McDaniel would have won it outright with another half-percentage of the vote. Now there’s a runoff on June 24. If it’s difficult to unhorse an incumbent, it’s nearly impossible for an incumbent senator to win a runoff election; a majority has already told him goodbye. Incumbents can win a runoff, but they don’t do it often.

Until Tuesday night, the Republican establishment was pleased with its success in beating back Tea Party challengers across the country in this primary-election cycle. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is run by senators, naturally distributes money and assistance in a way that preserves incumbency. They stepped up their game to meet the Tea Party surge.Mr. McDaniel is not the perfect candidate. He has been a talk-show host and said the occasional foolish thing that talk-show hosts inevitably say. But he’s running as a constitutional conservative committed to reining in spending and to repealing Obamacare, and some in the party establishment are breaking into the usual Republican backpedal. Defiant talk of repealing Obamacare was only talk.The contrast with Mr. Cochran — who has been in the Senate since 1978, when his challenger was just 6 years old — is clear. He takes pride in his record as an earmarker, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of pork to Mississippi. Mr. Cochran opposes Obamacare, but wouldn’t stand with Sen. Ted Cruz to block all bills that funded the scheme. “Shutting down the government to show how much we dislike the law won’t stop Obamacare,” Mr. Cochran said last summer.