76-Year-Old Thad Cochran Seeks Reelection vs. Tea Party's Chris McDaniel

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) announced Friday he would seek reelection to a seventh term in the U.S. Senate.

“I'm comfortable with my decision," Cochran, who turns 76 years old this weekend, told Gannett on Friday. “I'm looking forward to it. People have been very generous and expressed appreciation. Some have even started sending contributions and helping in that way.”

Tea Party-backed State Sen. Chris McDaniel has already launched a bid for the GOP nomination for Cochran’s seat. In response to Cochran’s announcement, one that surprised most in GOP politics who expected him to retire, McDaniel said he is undeterred. "Sen. Cochran has had a long and distinguished career representing the people of Mississippi,” McDaniel said. “I look forward to a positive campaign based on the future of our state, our country, and the Republican Party. As a strong conservative, I will fight to bring those values to Washington."

McDaniel has the support of an amalgam of state lawmakers in Mississippi, as several of his state senate colleagues have joined his campaign. He also has the support of conservative organizations throughout the state, plus national conservative support from groups like the Tea Party Express, Club for Growth, Madison Project, FreedomWorks, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and others.

In response to Cochran’s announcement he would be seeking reelection, Club for Growth president Chris Chocola said voters in Mississippi have a “real choice” between someone who is conservative and someone who is not.

“Throughout his over forty years in Washington, Senator Thad Cochran has done some good things for Mississippi, but he’s also done some bad things,” Chocola said. 

He voted to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, voted repeatedly to raise the debt limit by trillions of dollars, and even voted against a resolution that stated Congress has a “moral obligation” to cut spending. Senator Cochran has also voted to confirm liberal Supreme Court Justices and is a strong supporter of wasteful earmarks—something that is opposed by Republican leaders in both the Senate and the House. Mississippi voters will make the final judgment as to whether it is time for a change.

Cochran is backed by the establishment in Mississippi, most notably the political machine that former governor and one-time Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour built.

As rumors he was mulling a bid for Cochran’s seat began swelling in Mississippi, Barbour’s machine sought to quash any Tea Party insurgency in the state. Before McDaniel announced, back in September, Barbour’s nephew GOP lobbyist Henry Barbour told Roll Call that the GOP establishment would destroy McDaniel if he ran.

“I think he will get his head handed to him, and that will be what he deserves,” Henry Barbour said then. “[But] it’s a free country.”

Even so, when asked in a recent interview with Breitbart News what it’s like to run against Barbour’s machine, McDaniel said it’s "nothing personal."

“I’ve worked with Haley when he was governor,” McDaniel told Breitbart News. “He and I worked on many instances together during his time as governor. But we do represent different visions for the Republican Party.”

"My vision is one to restore the party to the greatness it once had, particularly with regards to its fiscal restraint and its adherence to constitutional principles. The party I believe in is the party I joined years ago when Reagan was president and I hope that party gets restored," McDaniel said. “But what’s it like to run against Haley? You know, it’s politics. I appreciate his positions. I appreciate his opinions. We just disagree.”

"It’s not personal," McDaniel added. "I’m just going to stand my ground to fight for what I believe and I’m confident he’ll stand his ground as well to fight for what he believes.”

Of all the establishment GOP incumbent U.S. Senators in danger to primary challenges, from Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina to Lamar Alexander in Tennessee to even potentially Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Cochran, at this point, is the most likely to lose. Recently released polling data from Public Policy Polling showed McDaniel just six points back on Cochran after only a month since his announcement. That poll showed Cochran at 44 percent, compared to McDaniel at 38 percent.


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