By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Embattled GOP U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who is neck-deep in the political fight of his life, rolled into Tupelo today but refused to talk politics.
The six-term incumbent’s campaign bus arrived at the tornado-damaged Joyner Elementary School this morning, but the senator refused to answer and then ignored questions from reporters about the campaign.
“I’m not here playing politics,” Cochran said. “I’m here to help out.”
Cochran visited the small group of mostly public officials and campaign supporters for roughly 20 minutes, never entering the school.
As Cochran left the outside entrance of the school, a staffer shielded him from reporters asking questions.
“We’re running late guys,” the staffer said, his arm around the 76-year-old Cochran.
Cochran’s campaign had a scheduled stop at a rural medical clinic in nearby Mantachie, less than 20 miles away.
If Cochran didn’t see the event as a campaign stop, he didn’t inform supporters. As Cochran returned to his bus, longtime supporter Paul “Buzzy” Mize reminded the group to vote.
Cochran’s refusal to discuss politics seems baffling three days after finishing with less than 50 percent of the vote and 1,386 fewer votes than tea party darling and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, 41.
Mississippi’s GOP primary has turned into one of the nastiest political slugfests in recent state politics. It also pitted the state Republican status quo against activist tea party supporters who strive for less compromise on issues.
Big money, special interest PACs and super PACS have poured cash and support into the state to support and attack both candidates.
A June 24 runoff election between the two candidates will determine the Republican nominee to face Democratic nominee and former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers.