ELLISVILLE, Mississippi — With only three days until the polls open for the GOP Senate primary here and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at his side, State Sen. Chris McDaniel vowed to fight President Barack Obama alongside Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in front of a raucous audience of thousands.
Americans, McDaniel said, have fallen for a “great delusion”– that only government can solve all of the nation’s problems.
“It is not the place of government to solve your problems,” McDaniel said. “It is the place of strong, self-reliant, self-governing individuals to solve your own problems–your church from time to time and your community from time to time–but not that government a thousand miles away. And every time we surrender our liberty, that government grows and expands more. More of your money. More of your freedoms. And there’s a price we pay for that.”
Noting that he grew up “hanging out” in the auditorium holding the event, his father was a professor at Jones County Junior College, where the venue was, McDaniel recalled his introduction to politics.
“I became a Republican when I was 13 years old, not because I knew anything about policy or philosophy or law,” McDaniel. “But I knew there was this man–this actor from California. He would look directly at that TV and it felt like he was speaking to me. My father called me into the room and he said, ‘son, you’ve got to see this.’ We watched Ronald Reagan talk about things that intuitively made sense to me. He talked about liberty. He talked about limited government. He talked about constitutionalism. He talked about balanced budgets. He talked about traditional family values.”
Reagan, McDaniel added, painted politics in “bold colors, not pastels” and led “a party of principle, not surrender. Then it donned on me: I must be a Republican.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, your constitution is not subject to compromise. I’ve got 17.5 trillion reasons to never again compromise on the debt. We stand here fighting what I consider to be the worst president in our country’s history. In this environment, where our conservative values are being attacked, where our conservative beliefs are being attacked, where our Constitution is being attacked, silence is complicity,” McDaniel added.
McDaniel began a call-and-answer section of the speech that envigorated the crowd.
“Conservatives look at me for a moment, Republicans look at me for a moment: Name one fight that Sen. Thad Cochran has led against Barack Obama,” McDaniel said.
“Zero!” the crowd shouted, almost in unison. “None!” a woman near the front of the auditorium yelled.
McDaniel–feeding off the energy of the crowd–continued: “Sen. Mike Lee, he stands and fights for Utah. Sen. Rand Paul stands to fight for Kentucky. Sen. Ted Cruz stands to fight for Texas. Even a Governor from Alaska fights for us. It’s time for a son of Mississippi to stand and fight for us. I tell you, when Sen. Ted Cruz stood there that night and he laid his soul on the line for this government and for this country, we applauded him. When others joined him, Mike Lee and Rand Paul, we knew we had friends in Washington, D.C., finally. Reinforcements are coming.”
The thousands-strong crowd jumped to their feet to give McDaniel a standing ovation that lasted at least five seconds.
“Now it’s not that Sen. Cochran is a bad person,” McDaniel continued, cutting through the standing ovation. “I respect Sen. Cochran. I even like him, despite the attack ads. But Sen. Cochran has not been the conservative voice we need from Mississippi. When those three men stood there on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Cochran was not there with them. He voted to fund Obamacare not once but twice. Republicans look at me for a second: Are we a party of bailouts?”
McDaniel then listed off a whole host liberal votes from Cochran. “Sen. Cochran voted to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” McDaniel said. “He voted for the Cash For Clunkers program. Come on conservatives, look at me for a second: Are we a party of taxation?”
“NO!” the audience, most of whom were still on their feet, replied.
“Sen. Cochran’s voted for higher income taxes,” McDaniel continued. “He’s voted for higher gas taxes, higher internet taxes. Are we a party of debt?”
“NO!” the crowd shouted.
“Cochran’s voted 13 times in the last 10 years to raise your debt ceiling to the tune of $8 trillion,” McDaniel trudged on. “Are we a party of the United Nations?”
“NO!” shouted the crowd.
“He’s voted to increase the U.N. peacekeeping costs,” McDaniel riffed. “He’s voted against the border fence–twice. But perhaps more alarmingly so, he voted for Chuck Hagel, and that was a line too far. Now the Republicans could have stopped the nomination of Chuck Hagel, couldn’t they have?”
“But the first Republican senator to cross the aisle and support the Democrats against our wishes was none other than Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi,” McDaniel fired away, while thousands in attendance booed Cochran.
“That’s the same Thad Cochran who supported John Kerry for Secretary of State,” McDaniel said while the audience booed Cochran more, “and the same Thad Cochran that gave us Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the United States Supreme Court. It’s time for a change in Washington, D.C. But we can’t change the city until we change the people we send there to represent us.”
McDaniel continued, showing a comfort and command of the crowd he hadn’t previously exhibited on the campaign trail. He vowed to “kill” Obamacare, impose term limits, and worked said he would work to enact the policy agenda of Lee and Cruz.
Towards the end of the speech, McDaniel offered a joke that hit at the heart of his campaign message – one that seems to be resonating deeply among Republicans here even as McDaniel has faced difficulties from the arrest of a blogger who allegedly entered Cochran’s wife’s residence to photograph her.
“You know, the other day somebody said: ‘What do you a call a politician who’s been in Washington for 42 years?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, what?’ He said: ‘You call him home.'”
The crowd roared.