Mississippi ‘Super PAC’ Aims to Protect 6-Term Senator in Primary

A group of Mississippi Republicans, moving to counter spending from out-of-state conservative groups, have created a “super PAC” to help Senator Thad Cochran fend off a primary challenge, and will begin airing a television commercial on Friday.

The super PAC, named Mississippi Conservatives to emphasize its homegrown roots, has bought three weeks of airtime on stations across the state for a commercial attacking State Senator Chris McDaniel, who is running against Mr. Cochran. The ad raises questions about the conservative credentials of Mr. McDaniel, a trial lawyer, claiming that he is not committed to tort reform and has supported excessive state spending.

“Who is Chris McDaniel? He’s whoever he needs to be,” a narrator says in the commercial.

The early salvo ahead of the June primary indicates how determined establishment Republicans in Mississippi are to defend Mr. Cochran, 76, a six-term senator who has not had a competitive race in decades. The primary is seen as one of the most competitive contests this year pitting a conservative Republican against an establishment one.

“The truth is Senator McDaniel has voted for tort reform multiple times in the State Legislature, while Thad Cochran has voted against tort reform repeatedly,” said Mr. McDaniel’s spokesman, Noel Fritsch. “Senator McDaniel has voted against big spending bills in the Legislature, while Thad Cochran has voted for more than $7.2 trillion of new debt since 1990.”

The strategists running Mississippi Conservatives say that, even though it is in a conservative state, the seat could be in jeopardy if the incumbent loses to an untested newcomer like Mr. McDaniel. “If you look at races in Nevada, Delaware, Indiana and Colorado, you know there are a lot of times these outside groups come in with a candidate like McDaniel, find a way to win the primary, but then lose the general election,” said Henry Barbour, a lobbyist based in Jackson and a member of the Republican National Committee who is advising the group.

It is uncertain whom the Democrats will nominate for the Senate, but former Representative Travis W. Childers has indicated an interest in the seat.