FLOWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Challenger Chris McDaniel pushed to mobilize his core supporters Monday in the closing hours of the runoff campaign for Mississippi’s Republican nomination for Senate, hours after U.S. Sen. John McCain praised incumbent Thad Cochran’s record on military issues at a Jackson event.
McDaniel rallied about 70 volunteers Monday evening along a busy suburban highway in the key Republican battleground of Rankin County.
The state senator from Ellisville is assuring supporters that their intensity and disgust for Washington will prevail Tuesday over the parade of state and national Republican officials aiding the six-term incumbent. McDaniel is bashing Cochran as “liberal” for seeking runoff votes from independents and Democrats.
“Tonight, they’re calling us unstoppable,” he told them. “It’s contingent on you getting out to the polls, bringing your friends with you. If you do that, with that kind of turnout, there’s nothing the Washington elite can do.”
McCain and other Cochran supporters highlighted the incumbent’s support for the military in their push against the tea party-backed challenger. McCain said that Cochran, a fellow Navy veteran, has been a steady ally of military spending and readiness.
“I call on my fellow veterans, I call on my fellow service members to send Thad Cochran, a good and decent and honorable senator, back to the United States Senate,” McCain told an audience of about 200 at the War Memorial auditorium in downtown Jackson.
The Arizona senator was the 2008 Republican nominee for president. His vice presidential running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, traveled to Mississippi in late May to campaign for McDaniel.
In a news release Monday, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste attacked Cochran’s record on earmarking federal funds. The affiliated Citizens Against Government Waste has often rated Cochran one of its worst pork-barrel spenders.
“Based on his voting record and his campaign pledge, there is little doubt that if he is re-elected, Sen. Cochran will both continue to squander taxpayer money and seek to re-establish earmarking,” the group said.
McCain said Monday that although he has fought earmarked spending, he and Cochran have relatively few disagreements. He said he believed he could work with McDaniel if he is elected, but said the newcomer would have a “very steep learning curve.”
Cochran didn’t ask audience members for their votes, leaving that to his surrogates, mainly praising McCain in brief remarks. Afterward, he told reporters that his experience and sound judgment would help him spend money wisely, defending against McDaniel’s attacks that Cochran shares the blame for the federal debt and deficit.
“I think that experience is a very strong asset in determining how you allocate very scarce resources,” Cochran said.
McDaniel also took aim at Cochran’s push for independents and Democrats to vote for him in Tuesday’s primary.
“Senator Cochran has shown his true colors,” McDaniel told reporters. “We knew him to be a liberal Republican and to reach out to liberal Democrats proves it.”
But that outreach was contrasted by five prominent Mississippi Republicans — Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, state Auditor Stacey Pickering, U.S. Sen Roger Wicker and U.S. Rep Gregg Harper — renewing their endorsements of Cochran at the McCain event Monday. A group of Republican state legislators also announced support for Cochran on Monday.
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