The most critical test of the establishment’s firepower against the Right will come June 3 in Mississippi, where Cochran faces the toughest threat of his 42-year congressional career. Outside conservative groups are united behind McDaniel, who fashions himself as the Jim DeMint of the state Legislature, and they have spent more than $1 million to defeat Cochran. Democrats, sensing a rare opportunity to contest a seat in Mississippi, have recruited former Rep. Travis Childers, a moderate Blue Dog who voted against Obamacare and who won a House seat in a deeply conservative district in 2008 by overcoming weak Republican opposition.
“The political environment favors McDaniel, and sometimes it’s hard to overcome the political environment, one that’s sick of Washington,” says Henry Barbour, who is running the pro-Cochran super PAC Mississippi Conservatives (and who is the nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour). “It’s understandable that Americans are mad at Washington and want great change, but I can tell you that the quickest way to change Washington is to make sure Republicans take control.”