Mississippi is now within a week from going to the polls in the hotly contested June 3 Republican primary. For the candidates and many would be voters it can’t get here soon enough. The tenor of the campaign, mainly instigated at the hands of the overzealous fringe within the Tea Party, surely has the Gipper rolling over in his grave.

All the bus stops, TV ads, press releases, crafted talking points, in state and out of state money, and friendly endorsements can be summed up in two points as we approach next Tuesday:

– If you’re the challenger, Chris McDaniel, you’re asking: Do you want an alternative to the last 36 years in Washington DC?

– If you’re the incumbent, Senator Thad Cochran, you’re asking: Do you want an alternative to the last week in Mississippi?

That’s what it boils down to despite McDaniel’s efforts otherwise.

The two term state senator has canvassed the state with his reigning in the national debt, repealing Obamacare, adhering to the Constitution, cutting waste, fraud and abuse, and lighting the lamps of liberty for the next generation speech.

Every political pundit in Mississippi can give that speech at this point.

And had the McDaniel campaign stuck to that script, what’s come down the stretch wouldn’t be impacting their chances so negatively.

The campaign took a turn for the worse when it began hitting Cochran on his age, as if he was ready to be put out to pasture simply because he was in his late seventies.

They followed that up with being linked to a white preservationist at an event as well as inflammatory radio clips. Both episodes could have been a mere blip on their radar but they were handled poorly by the campaign.

Then came the McDaniel campaign shopping the story implying that Cochran and his assistant, Kay Webber, had more than a professional relationship which was followed by the revelation of the Cochran Photogate conspiracy allegedly perpetrated by rabid McDaniel supporters.

It’s still hard to tell which of those episodes was the chicken or the egg: the McDaniel camp shopping the insinuation of infidelity or the Photogate conspiracy.

Through it all McDaniel’s campaign repeatedly shot itself in the foot with poor communications, media relations and overall decision making.

McDaniel’s primary story is a sum of his associations, an indictment on how he tied himself at the neck with the Tea Party fringe and hung his electoral hopes on staff not quite ready for primetime. His necessary reliance on outside money with so many strings attached tangled the campaign in a web practical conservatives are rightfully leery of.

Dr. Ed Holliday, a Tupelo Tea Partier who has been on the outs as of late with his fellow patriots because he didn’t blindly drink the Kool-Aid, told Paul Gallo, “The riskier bet would be McDaniel.”

And that’s what it’s come down to in this Mississippi US Senate race: Mississippi Republicans must consider the risk versus reward of their investment in voting for either Thad Cochran or Chris McDaniel.

Which candidate, staff and yes, even supporters, are the safer bet for Mississippi’s role on the national stage?

Mississippi voters know Thad Cochran. Despite the spin from his challenger they know where the Senator’s heart lies and it is with the people of Mississippi. They can trust he will be an advocate for this state, and his staff and supporters, while not perfect, aren’t as potentially damning to the Magnolia State’s reputation.

The onus was always on Chris McDaniel to make the case for unseating the incumbent. The questions Mississippi Republicans are left to ponder heading into the primary are:

– Has McDaniel and his campaign, along with their supporters, given you the comfort you need to unseat Cochran?

– Is McDaniel a safe bet for Mississippi Republicans come November versus the Democratic nominee and, should he win the general election, can McDaniel represent our state at the national level as well or better than Cochran?

– Or are there just too many holes within McDaniel’s campaign operation to give you that confidence you need to cast your ballot against Cochran? Is the hype, emotion and coopted talking points propagated by self inflated fringe types just too much for your comfort?

Mississippi has to decide whether the alternative McDaniel is offering, warts and all, is worth it for our future. Voters have to decide who is the safer bet for a Republican win in November, our state’s representation in D.C., and our image on the national stage.

Is Chris McDaniel worth the risk?

The answer is coming next Tuesday, and we all have a front row seat at this circus whether we wanted it or not.