Sen. Thad Cochran, a quiet pragmatist facing re-election challenge

Washington (CNN) — The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina along the Mississippi coast was fresh in Haley Barbour’s mind when he met with Sen. Thad Cochran and other members of the congressional delegation about aid in 2005.

“My first trip to Washington after Katrina, Senator Cochran said, ‘You tell me what the state needs and I’ll try to get it,'” Barbour told CNN. “He never deviated from that and ultimately he succeeded.”

Cochran did it, Barbour and political observers said, by employing the same sort of quiet, persistence that has marked his 36-year tenure in the Senate. He worked behind the scenes, talking with colleagues, negotiating and eventually he was able to net $29 billion in relief money.

He also worked across the aisle with Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to reform the law governing federal disaster relief policies aimed at helping communities recover.

Their efforts helped ensure that the victims of broad devastation, such as the type seen after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, could get aid for housing and rebuilding.

“In our time of greatest need, he was the giant in the delegation for Mississippi,” Barbour said.