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Did Democrats Just Put Mississippi's Senate Seat In Play?

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AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis

"Today I am filing to run for the U.S. Senate to make sure that all Mississippians have a Senator in Washington looking out for them," he said in a statement. "Regular people and small businesses across Mississippi are still hurting in this economy, but Washington is more partisan and dysfunctional than ever. That has got to change."

Childers, who was swept out in the tea party wave of 2010, distanced himself from his own party in his announcement, stressing that he's "an independent guy who will work across party lines." His advisory declared that he's "pro-gun, pro-life, and was endorsed by the NRA."

The Democrat is vying for the seat of Sen. Thad Cochran (R), which he has held since 1978. Cochran, 76, is duking it out with GOP primary challenger Chris McDaniel, a state senator who has support from tea party organizations like the Club For Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.

The deep-red state is a long shot for Democrats in any event. The last time Mississippi had a Democratic senator was 1989 -- John Stennis. But operatives believe they have a better chance if McDaniel wins the primary. The Republican state senator has made some missteps such as retweeting a neo-Nazi account and blaming gun violence on hip-hop music.

"This is a huge get for Democrats," said a Democratic strategist involved in the 2014 Senate races. "Mississippi is now in play."

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring wasn't impressed. "Yawn," he emailed. "Their hopes rely entirely on the Senate Conservatives Fund being successful."

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.