Thad Cochran

Not doing her dad any favors.

FLOWOOD, Miss. — Regardless of who wins Tuesday’s unpredictable Republican Senate runoff in Mississippi, the fracas has sent a message to incumbents in Congress: It is no longer enough to be a diligent member, quietly representing your constituents’ interests. You have to join the partisan fray.

For decades, powerful figures like Senators Trent Lott, John C. Stennis and Thad Cochran, the six-term incumbent, and Representatives Sonny Montgomery and Jamie L. Whitten made serving the parochial needs of Mississippi their No. 1 priority, often dismissing the baser aspects of politics with an aw-shucks shrug. […]

Mr. Cochran’s daughter, Katherine, an English professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, wrote what reads like a eulogy to a past political era last week on her Facebook page, lamenting that all her life, she has heard her father referred to as a statesman, “rather than the seedier ‘politician.’ ”

“I think that Mississippians are being snookered by neocon zealots on talk radio, Fox News and elsewhere. The New Right values extremism, obstructionism, partisanship and — frankly — ignorance,” she wrote. “Mississippi used to be recognized as the most backward, prejudiced, ignorant holdback in our nation, hands down. This sea change makes me very afraid that we might deserve that mantle.”