By Matthew Boyle, Breitbart News, June 11, 2014
A dozen or so senior GOP senators gathered with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) headquarters to raise funds for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) on Tuesday evening.
Noteably, none of them seemed too proud of it, based on how quickly they scurried away from the building—some outright declining to offer even a simple word of praise for Cochran—when asked why they were there.
The fundraiser—a last dash from the GOP establishment and McConnell, who is “all in” to save Cochran from his conservative primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel—occurred just hours before conservative Dave Brat crushed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary for his Virginia House seat, delivering the biggest-ever blow the Tea Party has delivered to a sitting GOP incumbent.
Senators who gathered to offer financial support for Cochran included Cochran’s Mississippi colleague Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), John Cornyn (R-TX), Bob Corker (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and McConnell (R-KY).
Cochran himself didn’t even show up for the fundraiser.
A Republican staffer told Breitbart News the mood inside the room—in which both Wicker and McConnell spoke—was somber. There was “a lot of looking at shoes,” the staffer said, and “a lot of people anxious to get out the door.” When Wicker and McConnell spoke, the staffer said, “what they didn’t say was stunning.”
“Thad’s name was only mentioned once,” the staffer said, and there was “no talk of what he had done, or what he would do… The silence was deafening.”
Around 6:20 p.m., a different fundraiser attendee walked outside to sarcastically inform another who was just arriving: “You’re missing all the great speechifying in there.”
NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring hasn’t responded to a request for comment about what happened at the fundraiser.
The GOP senators seemed to be perfunctorily performing their duties of allegiance to McConnell rather than actually putting their name on the embattled Cochran’s struggling re-election campaign.
Murkowski, for instance—a senator who faced her own Tea Party defeat in 2010 at the hands of Joe Miller but ran as an independent and kept her seat—outright declined to comment on why she’s financially supporting Cochran. “I’m getting to the airport right now to pick up my nephew who’s ten years old,” Murkowski said, when asked by Breitbart News for a quote on why she’s helping Cochran, while she hustled down the Second Street sidewalk.
Thune, a member of Senate GOP leadership as the GOP conference chairman, also declined a quote when asked by Breitbart News outside the NRSC building why he’s supporting Cochran. “Well, we’re late to the next event, so thanks,” Thune said as he hopped into the front seat of a black car.
Portman, who hurried down the sidewalk away from the NRSC building when he left the fundraiser at around 6:40 p.m., with a camouflage baseball hat pulled low making it difficult to see his face, told Breitbart News he is supporting Cochran because he’s an incumbent.
“I am [supporting Cochran],” Portman said while hustling up Second Street Northeast toward a car that was set to pick up himself and a staffer. “I’m the vice chair of the NRSC. We are supporting all our incumbents, including Sen. Cochran.”
When asked if he agrees with Cochran’s claim that McDaniel is an “extremist” who would be “dangerous” if elected, Portman demurred. “I didn’t see what he said, so I don’t want to comment on it,” Portman said. “But Thad’s a friend and he’s a colleague and he’s a good conservative and he’s been great for Mississippi.”
While Shelby got away before this reporter could ask him why he’s supporting Cochran, he could be overheard telling another fundraiser attendee as he walked out the door: “I told them I delivered my money for him.” It’s unclear what the context of that statement was.
Ayotte similarly got away before this reporter got to her, but another fundraiser attendee mentioned how she had her own campaign event later Tuesday evening, and she shrugged back jokingly with a smile on the NRSC’s front steps: “Here to support Thad!”
When Alexander, who faces a similar primary challenge from Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr, was asked why he’s supporting Cochran, he told Breitbart News as he hopped in a car outside the NRSC building: “Because he’s one of the finest senators we have in the United States Senate.”
Barrasso, who barrelled toward a car with a faster-than-normal gait on his way outside, said he’s supporting Cochran “because he’s an outstanding conservative senator and voice for the people of his home state.”
And when this reporter walked up to approach Corker as he was leaving the building, he got a cell phone call, then walked down Second Street away from the Capitol to hop in a gray SUV that met him there.
The McConnell fundraiser email invitation—which the Minority Leader signed—was much more enthusiastic in its support for Cochran than any of the GOP senators who showed up. “Our friend Thad is in a battle in the coming weeks that will have a very real impact on our fight for the Majority. You have helped all of us in the past, and we need your help for him now,” the email read, according to Politico. “It is critical that he has financial resources now, and we are going to make sure he has them.”