Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranMcConnell: Senate will pass short-term funding bill to avoid shutdown Lawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (R-Miss.) wasn't aware of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) historic primary loss in an interview posted online on Friday, just days after commenting on the race on Wednesday..
The interview clarified that Cantor lost “his seat,” and Cochran said that he hasn’t “really followed that campaign very closely at all."
“Really?” the interviewer asks with surprise.
“Really,” Cochran replies.
Cantor’s loss in his primary to an underfunded, largely unknown economics professor shocked the political world Tuesday night and emboldened conservative challengers across the nation — including McDaniel — who saw it as evidence that the grassroots are energized and an anti-incumbent wave is building.
It was the first time in history a sitting majority leader has lost his primary, and the loss threw House leadership into chaos this week as the GOP scrambles to choose a replacement for Cantor as majority leader.
On Wednesday, however, Cochran displayed an awareness of the magnitude of Cantor’s defeat in an interview on the campaign trail.
"I think there was a lot of surprise everywhere on the size of the victory and the fact that the leader couldn't defend his service in Congress," Cochran told WAPT. "So what else is new in politics? Some people win, some people lose."
But in the interview posted Friday, Cochran exhibited no knowledge, even, of Cantor’s position in leadership and the significance of his defeat. Offering to comment on the loss, despite admittedly not having paid much attention to the race, Cochran gave a generic remark about members of Congress losing reelection.
“Well that happens. Members of Congress, some win, some lose. It’s not an automatic proposition that you get reelected just because you’ve done a good job. Voters make their own decisions, and I respect their judgment,” he said.
The contrasting comments are sure to fuel further speculation from Cochran's detractors over whether he's fit for office. Multiple media reports out just before the primary outlined moments when the 76-year-old seemed confused when asked questions on the trail or when encountering a reporter he had already met. Prior to the primary, he drew criticism when he was asked about the Tea Party and said he didn't know much about it.
McDaniel's campaign hasn't outright pushed the question, framing the age issue only in terms of the decades he's served in office and whether he's been there too long, but it's one that's sure to dog Cochran through the June 24 runoff.
—This piece was updated at 12:15.