US Tea Party narrowly defeated by Republicans in Mississippi

Veteran Senator Thad Cochran held on to his post by a slim margin

The controversial Tea Party has been narrowly beaten in primary US Senate elections in Mississippi.

Veteran Senator Thad Cochran defeated his challenger, Chris McDaniel, on Tuesday in high-profile battle between the Republican old guard and the anti-establishment movement.

It was seen as a referendum on the direction of the party as it tries to win control of the Senate in November’s congressional elections.

Mr Cochran, 76, has sat in Congress for four decades and courts and public buildings across Mississippi are emblazoned with his name.

His opponent Mr McDaniel argued that he was out of step with voters in the deeply conservative state and promised to challenge Barack Obama and the Democrats in Washington but the incumbent was given the edge with an unexpected strategy of appealing to African-American voters.

Tea Party groups have pushed to slash government spending and are known for their socially conservative views and calls for lower taxes and tighter immigration controls.

Tea Party candidates are trailing badly in the polls A pro-Tea Party protest Fewer than 7,000 votes put Mr Cochran ahead in the election out of more than 370,000.

In a defiant speech, Mr McDaniel did not concede the race and hinted at possible legal action.

“Before this race ends, we have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters,” he said.

Business groups including the US Chamber of Commerce spent $4 million (£2.4 million) on Mr Cochran's behalf, while other groups spent $7 million (£4.1 million) backing his Tea Party opponent.

The latest runoff election was triggered because neither candidate won more than half of the vote in a primary on 4 June.

Mr Cochran will go on to stand against Travis Childers, a Democrat, in the November elections.

It will be a boost to Republicans who need to gain six seats to win control of the US Senate and want to gain greater leverage to oppose President Obama's policy’s during his remaining two years in office.

Earlier this month, the Republican Party was left picking up the pieces after its second-in-command in the House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, fell to an unknown Tea Party rival in Virginia.

Mr Cantor was beaten by an economics professor called David Brat in the state primaries.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Read more: Tea Party topples top Republican in Virginia
What is the Tea Party movement?
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