Updated 10:54 a.m., 2:10 p.m. | One of the most contentious Republican Senate primaries of the 2014 cycle was too close to call late Tuesday night, and the Mississippi race could be extended another three weeks.
With 99.6 percent of precincts reporting, state Sen. Chris McDaniel led 49.5 percent to 48.9 percent for six-term Sen. Thad Cochran, according to The Associated Press.
If no one takes more than 50 percent of the vote, both will advance to a June 24 runoff.
In the purest example this year of the split within the GOP, Mississippi Republicans chose between the soft-spoken, influential incumbent and a 41-year-old upstart who aligned himself with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
A runoff, which generally features a lower turnout than a primary, could favor McDaniel, whose base was more engaged and motivated to vote. It would undoubtedly mean another few weeks of advertising in a state already slammed by campaign and outside-group ads.
Should McDaniel prevail in the primary or a runoff, it would set up a potentially competitive race with Democratic former Rep. Travis Childers. He’s had anemic fundraising so far and would require a significant financial windfall to compete, but an open seat after a polarizing primary provides the party with a glimmer of hope.
Mississippi's 4th District Rep. Steven M. Palazzo, R-Miss., has once again defeated the Democrat he unseated in 2010.
Former Rep. Gene Taylor, who switched parties to take on Palazzo, came up short in his comeback bid in the coastal 4th District, which Taylor represented for 21 years. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Palazzo led 51 percent to 43 percent, according to the AP.
Palazzo needed more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff.
In a unique grudge match, run within the shadow of the competitive Republican Senate primary, the script was partially flipped from their last encounter. While Palazzo again linked Taylor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, this time Taylor was the candidate attacking the incumbent over his votes.
Taylor, who said the Democratic Party had left him, cited Palazzo’s support for defense budget cuts and against federal Sandy relief as potentially harmful to the area’s military installations and its ability to receive assistance in the event of another hurricane.
Palazzo is heavily favored to win a third term in this district that President Barack Obama twice received just 31 percent of the vote.