Cochran and McDaniel meet in a primary Tuesday that has garnered national attention as McDaniel, a tea party favorite who promises to serve in the mold of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, tries to unseat Cochran, a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman who was elected to the House in 1972 and the Senate in 1978.
McDaniel, 41, had been running on the notion that Cochran is a “gentleman” and a “fine Mississippian,” but one who simply hasn’t been conservative enough over four decades of rising national debt and expanding government. However, in an open letter to Cochran last week, McDaniel said he was reconsidering his respect for Cochran because he believed the incumbent’s campaign had resorted to “shameful slander” against him.
McDaniel has endorsements from several Mississippi tea party groups as well as national groups, including FreedomWorks, Senate Conservatives Fund, Tea Party Express and Club for Growth.
Cochran, 76, hasn’t had a serious challenge in three decades and has made few campaign stops in Mississippi in recent weeks — partly, his campaign says, because of his work in Washington. Cochran appeared at a Memorial Day event Monday in Vicksburg and has stops scheduled Wednesday and Thursday in southern Mississippi. He also spoke last Friday to a business group in the Jackson area, telling reporters outside that it was “unfortunate” and “sort of bizarre” that somebody photographed his ailing wife. The Cochrans’ two grown children released a statement last week saying their father has been devoted to their mother as her health has deteriorated.
On April 25, Cochran did a six-minute interview with The Associated Press between campaign stops in northern Mississippi. Standing outside a tire warehouse in Batesville, where he had spent about an hour shaking hands and talking with workers, Cochran said he’s in good health and intends to serve the full six-year term if re-elected. He also defended his record on federal spending and said he has declined invitations to debate McDaniel because he believes the challenger misrepresents his Washington record.
“I disagree with the criticism that my opponent is making of my service in the Senate,” Cochran told the AP. “But I think I’ve acquitted myself with due diligence and have performed in a way that reflects credit on our state.”