Ted Cruz, tea party groups urge probe into Mississippi Senate runoff

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

WASHINGTON - In a fresh sign of Republican turmoil, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, tea party groups and losing challenger Chris McDaniel all want an investigation into the June 24 Senate primary runoff in Mississippi won by Sen. Thad Cochran.

Even so, they have yet to present any evidence of the voter fraud that they allege in the bitterly fought race.

Cochran was certified the primary winner by the state Republican Party on Monday. Yet the day-after denunciations of the 76-year-old lawmaker were particularly vituperative by one critic. The Tea Party Leadership Fund referred to him as scum.

A tea party favorite known for his clashes with the GOP establishment, Cruz says allies of Cochran ran racially offensive ads aimed at persuading black voters to cast ballots in the Republican primary.

In his post-vote count remarks Monday night, McDaniel declared Mississippians "are not prone to surrender." He didn't concede, choosing instead to hint that the vote was perhaps tainted by crossover Democrats and he questioned the "sanctity of the vote" - reference to Cochran's late effort to reach out beyond GOP voters to black and union Democrats, among others.

"We have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters," McDaniel said. He didn't explain how he would achieve that certainty, and since Mississippi doesn't have a recount law on the books, it's unclear what exactly his options are.

The runoff was triggered after neither Cochran nor McDaniel won 50 percent of the vote in the June 3 primary; Cochran secured just 49.0 percent of the vote, while McDaniel won 49.5 percent. Mississippi law allowed anyone who did not cast a Democratic ballot on June 3 to cast a Republican runoff ballot.

McDaniel and his supporters previously cited a defunct Mississippi law - effectively invalidated by the courts - that requires primary voters to support a party's nominee in November. That would bar Democrats from supporting Cochran, the McDaniel camp argued. Mississippi elections officials confirmed before polls opened that the law is functionally unenforceable.