An unlikely group helped Sen. Thad Cochran capture the Republican nomination in a hotly contested primary runoff, but the strategy that propelled him to victory is unlikely to make it into the GOP playbook.
In the final weeks of the election, Cochran's campaign and allies turned to African-Americans and Democrats to carry the incumbent senator past his tea party challenger.
Turnout shot up in counties with the highest African-American populations, but Cochran's success with turning out an unlikely demographic will be hard to replicate elsewhere, several Republican strategists said.
CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kevin Madden emphasized that each election should be treated as an independent race with its own strategy.
"I think it would be hard to say this is a sign of something that could be replicated in congressional districts or in races around the country," Madden, a former adviser to 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said.
A unique scenario played out in Mississippi: Because of the state's open primary system, Democrats were able to help elect the Republican nominee, who is all but certain to win the general election in the solidly Republican state.
The contentious race between an incumbent with a pipeline to federal funds and a more conservative challenger with tea party backing jolted blacks into action -- 88% of whom voted for the Democratic nominee in the state's last Senate race in 2012, according to CNN exit polls.
States in which the same scenario could play out "are few and far between," GOP strategist and CNN political commentator Alex Castellanos said. "Until we find such a rare state, it will do a Republican no good to promise more federal spending and benefits to minority voters."
Bringing home the pork
Throughout the campaign, Cochran consistently pointed out his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the multimillion-dollar projects he has funded in Mississippi, some of which bear his name, like the University of Southern Mississippi's Thad Cochran Center.
Jackson, Mississippi, also boasts the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center -- a formerly run-down mall that an African-American doctor converted into a medical center with Cochran's support, said D'Andra Orey, political science professor at Jackson State University.
"He's done some things that are not black-specific, but things that blacks benefit from," Orey said.
Many credited Cochran's success at the ballot box to his ability to funnel federal dollars into his state -- the poorest in the country.
Henry Barbour, who steered the pro-Cochran super PAC Mississippi Conservatives, said that Cochran's long-standing relationships with the African-American community and ability to meet "the needs of all the Mississippians" helped Cochran win.
"It only worked because they had confidence in Sen. Cochran, whether it was a Republican voter we were talking to, an independent voter we were talking to, or even a Democratic voter," Barbour acknowledged.
But still, Barbour said he does not "think there's any question" that the strategy can be applied on a national level.
"We've got to genuinely go into the minority communities and communicate our message and explain to them why it's good for them," Barbour said.
Barbour called the election an impressive feat given the state's violent history of race relations.
Turnout spiked in Hinds County, which is 70% African-American and saw about 7,000 more voters for Cochran in the runoff than in the primary.
While boasting a similar share of Cochran supporters, neighboring Madison County -- which is 38% African-American -- delivered much smaller gains for Cochran in the runoff.
George Flaggs Jr., the mayor of Vicksburg, backed Cochran and encouraged other Democrats to support him at the polls, largely because his city's economy is anchored in government-funded projects.
"(Sen. Cochran) is a person that demonstrates leadership in terms of helping with jobs and job creation," Flaggs said. "I'm a black Democrat, but I try to be responsive to the needs of the city and the state."
He added that Mississippi would be unable to compete for federal funds with states like New York or California without Cochran's seniority in the Senate.
Barbour said he was "damned proud" to ask African-Americans and Democrats for their support.
"One of the highlights of the runoff was working with African-Americans in a shared interest in our state," Barbour said. "This is how you grow the party."