Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran: Tea Party 'Something I Don't Really Know a Lot About'
Incumbent Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said he was unfamiliar with the Tea Party movement, which has rocked Washington and the GOP establishment by giving a voice to Americans who believe Washington no longer represents them.
That ignorance of the movement is why Cochran, the six-term incumbent, may be in trouble in June's Mississippi GOP Senate primary.
"The Tea Party is something I don't really know a lot about," Cochran told Mississippi television stations on Monday. "It's a free country. We have open opportunities for people to participate in the election process."
When asked to respond, conservative state Senator Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Cochran in the primary, said, "It's a shame because the Tea Party is a mass movement of people that really care about this country."
Cochran also dismissed McDaniel's candidacy, which prompted McDaniel to say that "the idea that he doesn't know me or is not paying attention goes to show he hasn't been in the state very often."
"Anyone who refuses to balance the budget is out of touch," McDaniel said. "Anyone who votes for tax increases is out of touch. The people of this state have demanded that he be a conservative. To that extent, yes, his record is not conservative. So he's out of touch."
Cochran claimed that McDaniel was wrong and that he was "in touch with the people of Mississippi as an elected official can be."
As The Hill noted, the Club for Growth, a group that has endorsed McDaniel along with groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, quickly seized on Cochran's comments and released a web ad in which McDaniel says that "perhaps it's time for an introduction."
Sensing that Cochran may be in trouble, establishment Republicans have created a "Mississippi Conservatives" super PAC to attack McDaniel months before the primary in order to save Cochran, who has been described in mainstream outlets as a "seasoned appropriator" who is a "spitting image of the Republican establishment."