GAUTIER, Miss. (AP) — Republican primary challenger Chris McDaniel puts the nation’s $17 trillion debt at the center of his bid to represent Mississippi in the Senate, bashing six-term Sen. Thad Cochran as a profligate spender who has contributed to a problem that McDaniel considers “immoral.”
At the same time, the potential tea party hero pledges support for Mississippi’s military installations, defense contractors and public education system — all of which depend on hundreds of millions of federal dollars.
“We have to put aside some of our personal interests if we’re going to save this republic,” McDaniel told voters at a recent campaign stop on the state’s Gulf Coast, then added, “I’m going to fight for the shipyards and our military.”
Such attacks on Cochran for his years of steering federal money to his home state, mixed with promises to “fight for Mississippi” if elected to Congress, put McDaniel squarely in the rub faced by many conservative Republicans. Their opposition to higher taxes and increasing the nation’s borrowing limit is sacrosanct, yet they find it difficult when talking to voters to detail what spending they’d cut to balance the nation’s books.
“The thing that’s really preposterous about some of these candidates is that they’re against everything — except the things that voters are for,” said Republican campaign consultant Bob McAlister, a veteran of several presidential campaigns in South Carolina. “Everybody wants to gut everything except that which affects them.”
McDaniel led Cochran, 76, in the state’s June 3 primary but failed to win the majority required to avoid a runoff. They meet again Tuesday in an election that gives tea party conservatives their best shot this year at knocking off an incumbent Republican senator.
For his part, Cochran has almost embraced McDaniel’s attacks. The former Appropriations Committee chairman, who would likely return to his old post in a Republican-led Senate, seeks a seventh term with the promise to “do more for Mississippi.” He discusses the government’s debt and deficit only when asked.