Thad Cochran, Chris McDaniel campaign to the wire in Mississippi Senate showdown

Cochran, 76, who has brought billions of federal dollars to his state, campaigned with Gov. Phil Bryant and Rep. Gregg Harper as he worked to fend off McDaniel’s challenge.

“President Obama has taken us down some wrong paths,” Cochran said. “But, starting tomorrow, we can get America back on the right path. And that starts with repealing Obamacare.”

Neither he nor Harper nor the governor mentioned McDaniel by name, but the references were hard to miss.

“Thad Cochran will never do anything to embarrass the state of Mississippi,” Harper said in an appearance at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson.

An independent group that supports Cochran, Mississippi Conservatives, mailed a card to thousands of voters recently saying McDaniel would embarrass the state. The card played a few seconds of a talk radio audio recording of McDaniel from a decade ago, in which he said he had heard the word “mamacita” was a good pickup line for Mexican women.

Even that didn’t touch on the main controversy of the race — the arrest of four men on charges they surreptitiously photographed Cochran’s wife in a nursing home where she has lived for more than a decade with dementia.

Cochran’s campaign seized on the arrests, airing a television commercial that said the four are McDaniel’s backers, and saying, “Rise up and say, ‘no’ to dirty politics.”

McDaniel has said he his campaign knew nothing of the incident until after it occurred.

He campaigned in heavily Republican areas of the state on Monday as he worked to succeed at a task tea party-backed challengers failed to pull off earlier this year in Texas, North Carolina and Kentucky — toppling a Senate candidate backed by the GOP establishment.

In a telephone interview, McDaniel said, “We have a conservative vision for Mississippi. We are going to Washington to fight for our values. We are going to do it in a bold and courageous manner.”