By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Sen. Chris McDaniel vowed Friday to drive a “stake in the heart” of Obamacare, never vote to increase the nation’s debt ceiling and to decrease federal spending in Mississippi and the rest of the nation if he replaces longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in Washington, D.C.
McDaniel’s bus tour announcing his candidacy stopped at the Tupelo-based American Family Association headquarters. A two-term state legislator and attorney from Ellisville, McDaniel, 41, drew contrasts between him and six-term Sen. Cochran, 75, including age, willingness to compromise and desire to provide federal earmarks to Mississippi, one of the nation’s poorest states that receives billions on federal tax dollars annually.
Much of the state GOP’s status quo has traditionally lined up behind Cochran, who has won each election by comfortable margins since seeking the seat in 1978. McDaniel said the incumbent’s tenure doesn’t discourage his seeking the office.
“We’re going to win,” McDaniel said during this stop in Tupelo. “It’s not the establishment’s seat. It’s the people’s seat.”
Cochran has not made public his plans to seek another term but will later this year, said spokesman Chris Gallegos. Before the Senate announced a ban on federal earmarks a few years ago, Cochran was among the top congressional leaders seeking them.
McDaniel’s entry into the race brings to Mississippi a larger debate within the national Republican Party, which has friction between those willing to negotiate deals with Democrats and Tea Party-backed conservatives unwilling to compromise on many key issues, such as Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who led efforts in a partial government shutdown to protest funding of the Affordable Care Act.
McDaniel said he would vote and act in the spirit of Cruz, who hasn’t ruled out more government shutdowns to achieve political goals in the future.
Pointing to his experience in the state Senate and recent endorsements, McDaniel said Cochran isn’t the only establishment candidate. National conservative groups including the Madison Project, the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund have issued support for the challenger.
“Some would say I’m the establishment,” McDaniel said Friday. “I just represent a different side of it.”