Mississippi runoff could have far-reaching results for GOP

WASHINGTON - It's a runoff in two days that is the focus of the country. Mississippi voters will decide the fate of veteran Republican Sen. Thad Cochran. He's being challenged by tea party candidate Chris McDaniel.

The vote comes two weeks after the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, lost a primary stunner in Virginia.

Mississippi's primary runoff is now a political blockbuster. And it's attracting plenty of star power.

"I encourage you to stand with a proven and respected leader," says former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, a Mississippi native, in one TV ad.

"Chris McDaniel is a type of guy who will fight for us," Republican 2008 vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin declares in a radio ad.

Both candidates have enlisted lots of star problem. Former NFL star Brett Favre is endorsing Cochran.
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The Southern showdown between Cochran and McDaniel has turned into a battle for the ages. Local polls show the race is tight - but polls said the Cantor primary race was close, too.

CBS News' Political Director John Dickerson says the midterm primaries are straddling the GOP's future.

"The Republican Party has a divide. The question is whether it is debilitating, whether these primary fights leave a broken party and broken candidates in the end, or whether they're hard fought and whoever wins then suddenly gets the support of everyone," he said.

McDaniel, a state senator, narrowly beat Cochran in the primary earlier this month but failed to get over 50 percent of the vote, forcing Tuesday's runoff.

"They want a fighter. They want someone strong and brave and courageous. And that's what we're going to send up there. We're going to fight," McDaniel said.

The 76-year-old Cochran is reminding voters of what he has delivered in 3 ½ decades in the Senate - billions of dollars in projects.

"We think that we have good grounds to claim opportunity to serve again in the United States Senate for another six-year term and we're running on our record of service," Cochran said June 12 during a stop in Richland.

But tea partier Ross Aldridge says that is exactly why he'll be voting for McDaniel.

"Washington is not our nanny. It should not be our nanny. We need to be a little more, a lot more self-reliant," he said.

Wesley Rule sees the strain - in his own tea party. He's supporting the incumbent.

"Things are tense right now," he said.

"We're seeing ads and everything and there's lot of things being thrown around, but honestly everyone's just split half and half," Rule said.

That's a divide the Republican Party worries might not end on Election Day.