Brett Favre ad bomb for Thad Cochran: touchdown or incomplete?

Brett Favre, the legendary NFL quarterback and Mississippi native, is appearing in a US Chamber of Commerce ad to help Sen. Thad Cochran withstand the blitz by his tea-party-backed challenger.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Former NFL player Brett Favre at the 2nd Annual NFL Honors on Feb. 2, 2013 in New Orleans. Favre is appearing in a US Chamber of Commerce ad to help incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, with the clock ticking down toward the June 24 run-off against his tea-party-backed challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Who’s that hirsute retired guy in the latest ad boosting incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R) in his tough Mississippi primary race? Brett Favre, that’s who!

With the clock ticking down toward the June 24 run-off against the tea-party-backed challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the Cochran forces have called upon the Mississippi native and legendary NFL quarterback to try and pull their candidate over the goal line with a direct appeal to the Mississippi electorate.

(Or something like that. In the rest of this story we promise to refrain from using these comparisons: Hail Mary pass, two-minute warning, hurry-up offense, huddle, blitz, and bomb. But we can’t promise the editors will be able to resist using such obvious tropes in the headline.)

Favre appears in a new 30-second spot financed by the US Chamber of Commerce, which is one of Senator Cochran’s strongest backers among outside spending groups. The chamber has funneled more than half-million dollars into independent expenditures on campaign ads as Cochran struggles to win a seventh term.

The ad is pretty basic, with Favre leaning against the back of a pickup and extolling Cochran’s ability to bring federal dollars to the state.

“Thad Cochran always delivers, just like he did during Hurricane Katrina,” says Favre, a Gulfport native who starred at the University of Southern Mississippi before his NFL days.

What’s going on here? Well, we’d say that if nothing else the ad shows that Cochran is in real trouble. The incumbent ran neck-and-neck with Mr. McDaniel in initial primary voting that set the run-off field. That’s not good for a guy who’s been in office since the Carter administration.

That said, the Favre strategy might work. It’s an ad that will cut through the clutter and impress itself upon many state voters, tweets Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Favre is, or at least was recently, beloved in the state. In 2011 a PPP survey found that 52 percent of Mississippi voters had a favorable view of  Favre, and 18 percent had an unfavorable view.

The question is whether the direct appeal to voter self-interest, noting Cochran’s ability to divert federal largesse to a state that’s among the poorer in the nation, will work. It has in the past, but McDaniel ran quite well in the primary with a nationalized campaign stressing the need for smaller government and opposition to the Obama administration.

Cochran needs to get people who stayed home in the initial primary to flock to the polls. Crossover vote from Democrats would help, as far as he’s concerned. He recently noted to a local reporter that Dems should vote for him “because I used to be a Democrat.” (He switched parties in the mid-1960s.)

McDaniel might also point out that the use of Favre in a Cochran reelection campaign is a little too apt. After his Green Bay Packer career and a 2008 retirement, Favre tried to come back and play again, first with the New York Jets, then the Minnesota Vikings.

It ended with a series of injuries that indicated Favre might have tried to hang on too long. There’s one football comparison that might make the Cochran camp uncomfortable.

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