Cochran and McDaniel Battle over Mississippi's Economic Future

Cochran and McDaniel Battle over Mississippi's Economic Future

JACKSON, Mississippi — As the Mississippi GOP primary comes down to the wire, with the runoff next Tuesday, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and challenger Chris McDaniel are both making the pitch that they can fight for Mississippi’s workers in Washington, and the campaign may come down to who can make that pitch best.

Allies for Sen. Cochran argue that the senior senator’s 42-year career in Washington is Mississippi’s best bet. For instance, Bill Crawford of Mississippi Business Journal wrote that 3,000 jobs at Ingalls Shipbuilding shipyard in Mississippi depend on Cochran getting re-elected.

Crawford wrote in a Monday column:

Last week, I wrote that Jackson County voters played Russian roulette with their economic future by voting for challenger Chris McDaniel over Senator Thad Cochran, the only member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation with enough seniority to fund ships for Ingalls Shipbuilding.

Shortly after that column, Crawford noted, the House Appropriations Committee broke with the House and Senate Armed Services Committee to cut funds for the 2015 defense appropriations bill “for the next amphibious warship (LPD 28) to be built by Ingalls.”

“That puts approximately 3,000 Ingalls’ jobs on the firing line,” Crawford wrote. “Saving these jobs now depends on Cochran’s ability to revive funding in the Senate next month, then having the clout to push funding through a House-Senate conference committee later this summer. That would take significant clout in usual circumstances.”

That key argument–that Cochran’s experience in Washington and connections in the Capitol and other halls of power is key to Mississippi’s future–has been prevalent on the campaign trail for months. Cochran’s allies, like Sen. Roger Wicker, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Rep. Gregg Harper, and former Gov. Haley Barbour tell Mississippians day in and day out they won’t get what they need from the federal government if a young Republican like McDaniel were elected, despite the vigor he’d bring to the office.

But Haley Barbour’s brother Jeppie Barbour, who endorsed McDaniel, told Breitbart News that this assertion from Cochran is untrue. “[McDaniel would] be able to make a difference if he went in there and made an effort,” Jeppie Barbour said. “And we may send him some help in two years. But their argument about seniority doesn’t hold up when you listen to all of the rumors that Thad’s gonna quit in two years. I’m not much impressed with what ‘seniority’ has done for us anyway.”

Even if Cochran were re-elected, there are serious questions among Republicans about whether he’d actually lead such fights like the Ingalls job or others.

“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 frequently states in campaign speeches.

Unlike Cochran, McDaniel has made a policy pitch–rather than an influence pitch–for workers, offering them a different vision than what’s been the case here for the last 40 years. He’s signed the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) pledge against amnesty and a massive increase in legal immigration that would put Americans’ jobs at risk. And he’s pushing the Mike Lee Conservative Reform Agenda that would institute proactive conservative policies aimed at helping Americans get back on track economically.

McDaniel questions frequently why Cochran will not sign the anti-amnesty pledge, but he also notes that Cochran’s big-spending tendencies as an appropriator jeopardize military spending.

“There’s no justification for balancing the budget on the backs of the military,” McDaniel said in a recent interview with Breitbart News. “Mississippi has a proud military tradition.”

In an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon, Julia Hahn, executive producer for nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, noted that McDaniel “is fighting to defend Mississippi workers against the cheap-labor lobby.”

“McDaniel has eloquently and repeatedly spoken out in defense of American workers, who are facing down a deluge of corporate-interests lobbying for more low-wage foreign workers,” Hahn wrote.

Hahn’s statement was pushing an interview Ingraham conducted Wednesday morning with Mississippi’s Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole about how Cochran’s allies are allegedly paying black activists for Democratic votes in the GOP primary. Cole noted that he thinks there is “a general consensus across partisan lines in Mississippi that our current [immigration] system, if you can call it a system, is not working.” Rather, illegal aliens in the state “cause wages to be depressed.” 

“Unemployment in Mississippi has been over 7% for almost six years now,” Cole said. “And finding work is very difficult for people, particularly at the entry level of the economy.” Cole added, “Clearly, the presence in this state of undocumented workers has depressed wages, in my opinion.”

Cochran hasn’t spoken at all about immigration policy on the campaign trail, though Haley Barbour–one of his biggest supporters–was again calling for amnesty during a speech to the New York Meeting this week.