ELLISVILLE, Mississippi — With only 24 hours notice, a huge, 2000 strong crowd appeared here to see former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin campaign with state Sen. Chris McDaniel Friday.
“We need to elect those who can undo a lot of what’s been going on in Washington these days and to re-establish that foundation upon which America was built–that foundation that Chris McDaniel believes in and has lived out, that foundation based on freedom and right priorities when it comes to budgeting your tax dollars and where they will be spent,” Palin told the boisterous crowd.
The event is likely to give McDaniel a boost in the last stretch of his primary campaign against six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS). Polls show the race is neck-and-neck.
A new Harper Polling survey showed Cochran up 45-40, giving Cochran a lead just outside the margin of error, while a Chism Strategies poll released by McDaniel’s campaign showed McDaniel up 46-44, with the advantage inside the margin of error.
McDaniel supporters quickly criticized the Harper poll as geographically “skewed” and noted Cochran had been up 23 points in December and 19 points in April in the same poll.
Palin, a major draw in GOP primary campaigns, said she felt at home in Mississippi.
“I do love some of those unofficial mottos of the state of Mississippi,” she said. “I googled some of them, but I won’t repeat some of them–because I’ve heard other redneck jokes too. I’m from Alaska and I’m a proud bitter clinger to my God and my guns. See that’s why I feel like I’m at home, some of those unofficial mottos. But the more official motto–‘Arms and Valor’–I think is providential. I think it’s prophetic of where we are in this time in history and Mississippi’s role is being played out in this time in history,” Palin said.
The large crowd is impressive considering the event had only been announced publicly less than 24 hours before the event, and was only organized a few hours before that.
McDaniel has faced political difficulties from the arrest of a blogger and three Tea Party activists who are accused of working together to photograph Cochran’s wife in her retirement home to take rumors about Cochran’s personal life mainstream.
Cochran’s campaign has tied McDaniel to the arrest in television ads. A District Attorney said that while no one had been cleared, he didn’t believe anyone with the McDaniel campaign was involved in the break-in.
But GOP insiders and others say McDaniel seems to be emerging from the worst part of the tempest.
“The photo scandal is doing minimal damage to McDaniel among undecided voters,” columnist Sam R. Hall wrote in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, referring to the Harper poll.
Palin compared McDaniel’s situation to her own when since she was picked as the 2008 vice presidential candidate.
“I think I do know what the [McDaniel] family is going through on this journey,” Palin said. “The family wants to be strong. And they need to have from you all a hedge of protection provided by a prayer shield so that they remain strong because the journey is in fact on June 3 just beginning for your next United States Senator Chris McDaniel.”
Palin described the attacks from the Cochran campaign against McDaniel as “non stories” being pushed by the mainstream media–a style of attacks she said she’s familiar with.
“Those are distractions meant to take your eye off the ball,” Palin said. “What the media’s doing is that same old noise–that blah, blah blah, white noise in the background. The intention is to distract.”
Palin said McDaniel would join Sens. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in Washington to fight against the political class.
“We know that Chris is running for the right reasons,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe that. Of all these candidates we want to support and elect into office, Chris is running with a servant’s heart and that’s what we need in the United States Senate. Mississippi, we are proud of some of the good guys in the Senate like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)–we promised them reinforcements. Mississippi’s effort in that is to send Chris McDaniel to the United States Senate in service to this great country.”