Image: AP

Don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet, Mississippi.

As the tumultuous fight for Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat in Washington hurtles toward a close on Tuesday, this bitter reality has started to dawn on Republicans here: The larger battle for power within the Mississippi Republican coalition is only just beginning.

In this deeply Republican, nearly one-party state, the race between Cochran and conservative challenger Chris McDaniel has torn open long-developing divisions within the GOP power structure. The six-term senator and his allies, led by former Gov. Haley Barbour and an army of entrenched figures in Washington and the state capital, have maintained a tight grip on political power in Mississippi since it became a Republican state in the first place.

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