State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-MS) may be preparing his primary challenge strategy against Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) by taking the same tack many tea partiers are: painting incumbent Republicans as liberal firebrands who defend Obamacare.
Brad White, the former chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party who now serves as the chief of staff for Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering, said he received an odd 15-minute phone call last week that was clearly tilting the questions in McDaniel’s favor.
“They listed very negative statements about Sen. Cochran and it would be things like ‘Would it make any difference, no difference or some difference if you knew that Sen. Cochran voted to fund abortions? Or voted to support Harry Reid enacting Obamacare,” White said.
The overall nature of the questions seems a popular approach among tea party primary challengers are taking against incumbent Republicans — painting them as too liberal on core conservative issues. But Cochran is no friend of liberals. In 2011 he voted to prohibit federal funding for abortions and has a 0 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. Cochran has voted multiple times to cut off funding to Obamacare. He’s also said debt reduction is one of the top issues Congress should focus on.
White, who told TPM he’s a Chochran supporter, said the questions he received in Friday’s call were all in the same line of “trying to basically say that Sen. Cochran was very liberal in nature and basically stating things that one would hope based on information they’d gathered from me would cause me to change my mind and not vote for him.”
In relaying the call to TPM White said he could not remember the caller identifying himself or who he was working for, but it did seem like the caller was not too familiar with Mississippi politics because of how he repeatedly mispronounced former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s (R) name.
A second source who asked not to be named so she could speak candidly about the call she got on Thursday relayed a similar story. Like White’s call, the questions in this call included questions about McDaniel (pictured above) and Cochran especially on Obamacare, abortion and the debt as well as border security. She, too, said her caller seemed unfamiliar with Mississippi, even mispronouncing the sitting senator’s first name.
“She read three to four of those and I remember the first one being Sen. Cochran has voted to fund abortion with taxpayer dollars and I said well I don’t believe that,” the woman said. “And then she said Sen. Cochran has voted to increase spending and increase our national debt, Sen. Cochran has voted to fund Obamacare. So, of course, after each one of those statements I said no, I don’t believe that. I think that’s a misstatement. I don’t think that’s true.”
Both of the people TPM talked to about the phone calls said they were Cochran supporters and said multiple times throughout their respective calls that they would still vote for the incumbent senator.
It’s unclear if the strategy laid out by the mysterious calls will work. There hasn’t been a lot of polling on the primary but the few surveys out there show McDaniel as a significant threat to Cochran.
TPM reached the McDaniel campaign for comment. Communications Director Noel Fritsch refused to answer multiple questions about the calls.