Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is facing real competition in the upcoming Republican primary from a Tea Party candidate for the first time in 30 years, and the conservative group is confident the six-term senator will be defeated.
The challenger is 41-year-old Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who has met with Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz in recent months to court their support while he takes on the GOP establishment, NBC News is reporting
"I never in a million years thought I would challenge Sen. Cochran. He's been there as long as I've been alive," McDaniel told the local Cattlemen's Association Thursday.
"Millions in this country feel like strangers in this land. An old America is passing away; a new America is rising to take its place," he added. "We recoil from that culture. It's foreign to us. It's offensive to us."
And he warned about the current political environment in Washington, which he likened to reversing the American Revolution.
"When we abdicate our self-government, when we surrender it to politicians and bureaucrats 1,000 miles away, it is essentially akin to repealing that early American revolution," McDaniel said.
McDaniel is challenging Cochran's conservative credentials and questions how much he has contributed to the debt problem.
"Sen. Cochran has not shown a willingness to be a conservative during his tenure," McDaniel told NBC News. "He's been there 42 years and during that time period the debt's grown from $400 billion to $17.3 trillion. And he's been largely responsible for that."
The Mississippi senator has defended the money that he has helped allocate to Mississippi, which is one of the poorest states in the country.
He explained that even though the earmarking process officially ended in 2010, it's not really over.
"We're up here in Washington to make recommendations about how federal dollars are to be spent," Cochran said. "And if you really want to boil it down, that's what an earmark is."
McDaniel made a gaffe on the campaign trail when he wouldn't give a clear answer about whether or not he would have voted for the Katrina disaster relief bill, which many argue helped save the state after the massive hurricane.
His campaign later came out with a statement, saying that "yes" he would have voted for the measure.
Some establishment Republicans question if McDaniel may be too conservative for the state, and worry that if McDaniel wins, he could go the way of Todd Akin in Missouri in 2012, when the seat is currently a solid Republican seat for Cochran. Especially at a time when the GOP is hoping to take back the Senate.
"The last thing we want to do [on] election night [is] have a big screw up here and have people look at Mississippi and say, 'but for the mistake in Mississippi, we could have taken the United States Senate," said Joe Nosef, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party.
Cochran was in a dead heat
with McDaniel in a poll taken in December.
Cruz wrote a fundraising letter
for the Madison Project in February, a Tea Party group that has run ads for McDaniel.
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