Blacks to Thad Cochran: You owe us – By ANNA PALMER and LAUREN FRENCH | 6/29/14 5:22 PM EDT

Thad Cochran is pictured. | Getty

Cochran asked for a favor and now his new supporters are plotting how to cash it in. | Getty


Thad Cochran won a primary runoff by turning out the black vote. Now they are asking — what are you going to do for us?

Already the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are talking about what they want Cochran to do. The wish list is fulling up with ideas like maintaining funding for food stamps, beefing up programs that help poor blacks in Mississippi and even supporting the Voting Rights Act.

“Absolutely we have expectations,’’ Rep Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), said in an interview.

(Also on POLITICO: Dems’ best shot in Mississippi)

And while Cochran beat back a tea party challenger by reminding voters, particularly black voters, that he brings home the federal bucks, the policy asks are far more liberal than much of what the moderate Republican has championed in his four decades in office.

But that’s the Washington game. Cochran asked for a favor and now his new supporters are plotting how to cash it in.

“My hat is off to Sen. Cochran for being as desperate as he was, to actually go out and up front got out and ask for those votes,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). ” Those votes were delivered and I’m hopeful he will be responsible and responsive to the voters that pushed him over the top.”

(Also on POLITICO: McDaniel digs in)

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) agreed that Cochran has an opportunity to support the black community.

“What I hope happens is that he comes to the realization that African Americans are the reason I have this final six years and therefore I’m going to try and be more responsible than I have been,” Cleaver said.

Their sentiment was echoed around the capitol and in Mississippi following Cochran’s win over tea party favorite Chris McDaniel, fueled by surge in black voters in the Mississippi Delta. Turnout increased overall in Mississippi for the runoff, but counties that are majority black like Jefferson County saw voters came to the polls in record numbers.

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No place like home: Romney scapegoat wins in Miss. – By ALEXANDER BURNS | 6/29/14 7:02 AM EDT

 The novel’s plot is now almost eerily prescient: A cynical Republican consultant returns to his native Mississippi to run a slash-and-burn campaign, grappling with cartoonish scandals and echoes of his childhood in the civil rights era. In the end, an aging political throwback – a genteel ex-governor – lands a place in the U.S. Senate.

Stuart Stevens is pictured. | Getty

Stevens attributes Cochran’s success to his refusal to run a campaign based on anger.

Stuart Stevens wrote the satirical book, “Scorched Earth,” in 1994. In 2014, he practically lived it.

The former senior strategist for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Stevens decamped this spring to Mississippi to help steer Sen. Thad Cochran through a trying reelection fight. Settling in a hotel a few miles from the home on Jackson’s Piedmont Street where he grew up, the Republican operative became a mercurial presence around the race. An admaker by trade, Stevens popped up on Cochran’s campaign bus, near the senator’s side during a predawn stop at the Ingalls shipyard, on the sidelines of a Chris McDaniel event featuring Romney’s old nemesis, Rick Santorum.

(Also on POLITICO: How Cochran bounced back from disaster)

His first major political undertaking since the devastation of losing a presidential race, the Cochran campaign was more than just any old election for Stevens. For a consultant who cultivates a man-of-mystery aura, known for being an accomplished world traveler and literary jack of all trades, the campaign was also a homecoming.

Stevens, 61, declined three times to discuss the personal resonance of the Cochran campaign prior to Tuesday, when the incumbent defeated McDaniel by less than 7,000 votes. Two days after the vote, he called up and offered to talk – about what the race meant to Mississippi, to the Republican Party and to him personally.

In an hour-long phone interview, Stevens said he grew passionately invested in the Cochran-McDaniel race as a contest between Mississippi’s past and its future. He described it not as a generational fight between two politicians, but a struggle against forces of anger that have stained Mississippi’s history.

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Alabama, Mississippi Brace for 2nd Hit as Tornado Toll Reaches 28 – BY CASSANDRA VINOGRAD, ALEXANDER SMITH AND ALASTAIR JAMIESON

Image: An American flag is mounted on mobile home debris as a searcher looks through the remains of several mobile homes in Louisville, Miss.

Communities across the South were on high alert Tuesday as a devastating storm system that left at least 28 people dead threatened to pack a one-two punch on the hardest-hit areas of Alabama and Mississippi.

The storm front killed at least 11 people on Monday when it slammed into parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee and produced more than 50 tornado reports in 24 hours.

It spawned twisters, driving rain and scattered hail across swaths of the South and has been blamed for at least 17 deaths over the weekend in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa.

On Tuesday, the areas hit hardest by severe weather “are going to get a repeat performance,” according to The Weather Channel’s chief meteorologist, Kevin Roth. He said the severe storm that kicked off the chain of deadly tornadoes was so slow-moving that it’s “almost stationary.”

“It is almost identical areas that are under the gun, two days in a row”

Roth warned that eastern Mississippi, eastern Tennessee and “all of Alabama” could be in line for a second hit — putting millions of people at risk.

“It is almost identical areas that are under the gun, two days in a row,” Roth said. “That’s not normally the case.”

Thousands hunkered down overnight in Alabama as tornado watches remained in effect and a state of emergency was declared.

Heavy damage was reported in Limestone County in the northern part of the state, the county emergency management agency told NBC News. At least two people were killed west of the town of Athens, according to Holly Hollman, a spokeswoman for the city.

Hollman said that at one point up to 16,000 people in the county were without power, but the number was decreasing. Trees and power lines are down across the county, she added.

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Obamacare enrollment rides a bus into the Mississippi Delta – By JENNIFER HABERKORN | 3/22/14 6:59 AM EDT

GREENWOOD, Miss. — In the poorest state in the nation, where supper is fried, bars allow smoking, chronic disease is rampant and doctors are hard to come by, Obamacare rolls into town in a lime green bus.

It took some real convincing by the Obama administration and a leap of faith by one state Republican official to get one of the nation’s largest insurance companies — Humana — to set up shop across Mississippi. Virtually no other insurer was willing to do so, discouraged by the acute health needs here and most elected officials’ outright hostility to the law.

Four months and more than 200 bus stops later, enrollment numbers here remain dismal. Only 9 percent of the state’s Obamacare-eligible population have signed up, putting it near the bottom of yet another national statistic.

(PHOTOS: Obamacare in the Mississippi Delta)

Yet the Humana bus rolls, pulling into hospital parking lots and Wal-Mart shopping centers, parking at churches large and small and hitting other obvious targets to find and convince the uninsured that President Barack Obama’s signature health achievement will benefit them. Sometimes the company’s agents see dozens of people per stop. Other times, just a few individuals climb aboard.

The effort in Mississippi illustrates the obstacles the health law must overcome in many parts of the country, particularly in deeply conservative areas where antipathy toward Washington mixes with challenges of geography, education and general skepticism or ignorance of the Affordable Care Act. High rates of poverty and disease — which mark much of this state — don’t necessarily aid recruitment. Add the strident opposition of GOP leaders and enrollment gets that much tougher.

“This law’s letdown in my home state and the premium hikes on hardworking families are no different than the problems we are seeing across the country,” said Rep. Gregg Harper, whose congressional district cuts diagonally across Mississippi. “I have heard from folks I attend church with to small-business owners and everyone in between about their issues enrolling.”

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Second Baby ‘Cured’ of HIV After Early Treatment – By Margaret Hartmann Wednesday at 11:05 PM

`After a Mississippi doctor revealed last year that she accidentally cured a baby born with HIV, skeptics suggested the tests that initially showed she was infected may have been wrong. However, on Wednesday doctors at an AIDS conference in Boston revealed that the virus has been cleared from a second baby born 9 months ago in Long Beach, Calif. In the U.S. transmission from mother to child can usually be prevented via prenatal drugs, but the mother, who is mentally ill and has advanced AIDS, didn’t take the medication she was prescribed. After hearing about the Mississippi baby, the girl’s pediatrician, Dr. Audra Deveikis, put her on a high dose of three drugs used to treat the virus hours after birth. “Of course I had worries,” Dr. Deveikis told the New York Times. “But the mother’s disease was not under control, and I had to weigh the risk of transmission against the toxicity of the meds.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at Mar 6, 2014 12.50

While technically the Long Beach baby, who is now in foster care, isn’t “cured” or “in remission” because she’s still on medication, blood tests have found no virus capable of replicating. The Mississippi child is now 3 and appears to be HIV-free, though she hasn’t been treated for about two years. One researcher said there may be five similar cases in Canada and three in South Africa.

Researchers will soon start a clinical trial with up to 60 babies in the United States, South Africa and Brazil. The trial will take several years, but it looks like doctors may have found a way to cure the 250,000 babies born with HIV each year.

Now That Jan Brewer Has Vetoed SB 1062, Are Religious Discrimination Bills History? – Steven Hsieh on February 27, 2014 – 5:32 PM ET


A couple kisses after learning that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announces vetoed SB1062, which would’ve granted businesses the right to refuse service to LGBTQ people. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Amid mounting pressure from businesses, activists and US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer yesterday vetoed a so-called “religious freedom” bill that would’ve granted businesses broad license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

But Brewer’s veto doesn’t mark the end for this type of legislation, at least not officially.

Four states—Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma—are still considering bills that would allow businesses to deny services on religious grounds. And that’s not to mention the long list of states that considered, but recently rejected, such bills. Before Brewer’s veto, lawmakers had already killed broad “religious freedom” bills in IdahoIndianaMaine and Ohio. More blatantly discriminatory versions inKansasSouth Dakota and Tennessee, which specifically targeted LGBTQ individuals, died this month.

Rose Saxe, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, said the bills represent a shifting strategy, a “plan b,” among conservative evangelical groups who recognize they’re on the losing side of the same-sex marriage battle. If the national opposition to Arizona’s bill, uniting John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Apple, is any indication, the evangelicals may already be losing this one too. Some lawmakers who voted for “religious freedom” bills are already backtracking on their support.

“It’s so tainted now, it needs to go away,” said Kansas Representative Scott Schwab (R-Olathe), regarding talks by the state’s legislature to rework and reintroduce its “religious freedom bill.” Schwab voted for the bill, but now says he regrets it.

Mississippi Senator David Blount (D-Jackson), another initial supporter of his state’s bill claimed ignorance on its implications, saying in a Facebook post:

I was not aware (nor was any other Senator or interest group or citizen that I have talked to aware) of this intention or possible result when we voted on the bill on Jan. 31. I am opposed to discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. Obviously, I should have (all of us should have) been aware of this.

That’s not to say it’s time to claim a total victory. Here are the remaining legislative battles over religious discrimination bills:

Georgia: The state has a pair of bills, one in each state house, that use almost identical language to Arizona’s. While it a House Bill 1023 looks dead, Senate Bill 377 has moved through committee. The senate bill’s sponsor said critics of the bill simply “want the government to be a tool to promote militant atheism.” Mother Jones’s Dana Liebelson has a good report on this one.

aMississippi: Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2681, also known as the “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” on January 31. The bill, also similar to Arizona’s, currently sits in a state House committee. It also includes an amendment that would add “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

Missouri: State Senator Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) just introducedhis state’s version, SB 916, on Monday. It is, again, also nearly identical to Arizona’s bill and currently awaits assignment to a Senate committee.

Oklahoma: Lawmakers are reworking a “religious freedom” bill and indicated that its current incarnation is not likely to make it to the floor this legislative session. “We’re still in favor of running a bill like that, but we’re just trying to get the language tightened up to prevent there from being any fiascos like there have been elsewhere,” sponsor Representative Tom Newell (R-Seminole) told the Associated Press.

Read Next: Why hasn’t the NFL threatened to pull the Super Bowl out of Arizona?

Mississippi 2014 Senate election: Anatomy of a takedown – By ALEXANDER BURNS | 2/19/14 5:02 AM EST

OXFORD, Miss. — As Sen. Thad Cochran faces a potentially career-ending primary challenge, his strategy for victory is straightforward: Stress his decades of bringing home federal largesse and his long relationships with home-state Republicans; tap Washington rainmakers to fill his campaign account; and bring in Mississippi political legends like Haley Barbour and Trent Lott to help seal the deal.Chris McDaniel (left) and Thad Cochran are pictured in this composite image. | AP Photos

Chris McDaniel is the biggest intraparty threat to a sitting senator in 2014. | AP Photos

Part of an occasional series on the hottest races of the 2014 midterm election.

Cochran’s opponent in the June 3 showdown, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, is practically salivating over the contrast that it represents.

As the 2014 election cycle begins to accelerate, perhaps no race presents a sharper difference of views on what it means to be a Republican or offer a sharper microcosm of the ongoing GOP civil war than the race in Mississippi.

(On the Ground: POLITICO covers the hottest races of 2014)

And as other GOP primary challengers around the country have faltered, no candidate has emerged as a greater intraparty threat to a sitting senator than McDaniel, a fast-talking 41-year-old litigator who explicitly promises to shatter the status quo of Mississippi’s relationship with Washington. The brash state lawmaker trashes Cochran’s record as an appropriator for their poor home state as a travesty of spending and debt. He has vacuumed up cash from out-of-state conservative groups and names as inspirations both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a pair of neophyte tea party heroes with whom McDaniel says he has conferred about the race.

“If we’re able to defeat Thad Cochran in this primary race — he’s been there 41 years — do you know the shock waves it’ll send through the system?” McDaniel asked a hushed audience of more than 100 in a cavernous atrium at the University of Mississippi on Thursday. “We have to shake the establishment.”

McDaniel’s bid to topple Cochran has stirred intense passions here in the Deep South state that has prized longevity in its politicians for generations, relying on the pipeline of federal dollars that only senior appropriators like Cochran can ensure. The state has elected only five senators since World War II; since 1978, Cochran has been one of them.

The senator and his allies proudly tout Cochran-backed legislation that delivers for Mississippi, like the recent five-year farm bill that hard-right national groups opposed. An old-school Senate power broker, Cochran shrugged to a local TV interviewer this week: “The tea party, you know, is something I don’t really know a lot about.”

(PHOTOS: Senators up for election in 2014)

The early skirmishes in the race have been bitter enough that state and national Democrats have wondered if they could be looking at a repeat of the 2012 Indiana Senate race, when a hard-edged challenger turned out longtime GOP Sen. Dick Lugar only to lose the general election. The Mississippi Democratic Party, which has struggled to field competitive statewide candidates in any race in recent years, intends to poll the contest this month. Former Congressman Travis Childers is in talks with national Democrats about entering before the March 1 deadline.

Anatomy of a takedown

Among the conservative activists challenging incumbent U.S. senators in 2014, McDaniel is the only one to receive the unanimous support of all the powerful outside groups that fuel campaigns on the right. When he announced last October, he won instant endorsements from the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison project; FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots followed only a little while later.

It didn’t happen by accident.

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