Mississippi tea party candidate Chris McDaniel has received a boost from two new polls in his GOP primary race against longtime incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran.
A Rasmussen Reports Poll
found that in a potential match-up with likely Democratic candidate Travis Childers, a former congressman, McDaniel would earn 78 percent support from Republican voters while Cochran would only receive 71 percent of the GOP vote.
However, the survey also shows that Cochran, first elected to the Senate in 1978, holds a 17-point lead among potential voters over Childers, 48 percent to 31 percent, while McDaniel only has a lead of 12 points, 47 percent to 35 percent.
"Cochran was re-elected in 2008 with 61 percent of the vote, but the fact that he now earns less than 50 percent of the vote signals there is unhappiness in the state with his performance," according to Rasmussen, which noted he last had a Republican primary challenger in 1996.
In their respective matchups with Childers, Cochran has the support of 66 percent of tea party voters, while 78 percent of these voters favor McDaniel.
The primaries for both the Republican and Democratic primaries will be held on June 3.
The Rasmussen phone survey of 750 probable voters in Mississippi was conducted from March 26-29, and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
, conducted by the NSON Opinion strategy for the Tea Party Express, found that McDaniel had overtaken Cochran in a head-to-head match-up for the GOP nomination.
The poll found that McDaniel, a state senator, led the incumbent by nearly 1 percentage point, 42.1 percent to 41.3 percent, reversing an initial survey that showed Cochran in the lead by 8 points.
Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest tea party political action committee, claimed that McDaniel’s support soared among voters after the organization and other tea party groups had touted his conservative qualifications.
"The Tea Party endorsements are providing an important boost to McDaniel, who is still unknown to many voters," according a statement by the organization. "With 58 percent of the electorate yet to form an opinion on McDaniel, his opportunity to grow support remains high."
The statewide telephone survey of 400 likely voters was conducted March 24-28.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters
, Democratic Party polling in February showed voters supported McDaniel over Cochran by a margin of 1 point, 44 percent to 43 percent.
A string of conservative groups, including Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Senate Conservatives Fund, have thrown their support behind McDaniel
, and he raised $500,000 for his campaign coffers in just his first 10 weeks in the race.
Cochran, 76, who is seeking his seventh six-year term, has the support of the GOP hierarchy, including former Gov. Haley Barbour.
Tea party candidates are challenging establishment Republicans in several Senate races, but the conservative group has already been dealt a blow in Texas with Sen. John Cornyn’s primary victory.
With tea party favorites unlikely to unseat incumbents in Kentucky, Tennessee and Kansas, the conservative organization is pinning its hopes on taking Mississippi to gain a bigger foothold in the GOP, Reuters reported.
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