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Challenger to longtime GOP senator gets a boost


Sarah Palin, left, and Rick Santorum

Sarah Palin, left, and Rick Santorum



Philip Elliott/The Associated Press



WASHINGTON -- The Mississippi state lawmaker who is challenging longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran is picking up help from some high-profile conservative darlings just in time for next week's primary. 


Former presidential contender Rick Santorum and ex-vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin are the latest Republican stars to lend a hand to Chris McDaniel. The two are appearing in separate ads to help build momentum for McDaniel before the Tuesday primary. 


McDaniel's campaign said Palin would join him Friday at a rally in Ellisville. 


McDaniel's challenge to Cochran is poised to be one of the few potential success stories for the tea party this election year and could be a rare trophy for the anti-establishment agitators in the GOP. Outside groups have poured millions into the race, which illustrates the split within the GOP between rank-and-file activists and establishment-minded operatives and donors. 


Cochran's allies, meanwhile, are trying to help the 76-year-old senator to win a seventh term. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is backing Cochran, his nephew Henry Barbour is running the pro-Cochran super PAC Mississippi Conservatives, and Henry's brother, Austin Barbour, is a senior adviser to Cochran's campaign. 


Another political scion of Mississippi, former Sen. Trent Lott, lent his backing to Cochran in a 60-second radio ad from Mississippi Conservatives. 


"Thad's up for re-election next Tuesday, and I'm proud to support him," Lott says in the ad. "I know that Thad loves Mississippi, and every time we've needed him and called on him, he's been there." 


The pro-Cochran super PAC also is paying for another television ad calling McDaniel a "personal injury trial lawyer" who routinely missed votes in the state Senate. And in a separate radio ad that began on Thursday, the group continues its criticism of McDaniel. 


"So who is Chris McDaniel really? He's a personal injury lawyer who will say and do anything to win. A state senator who doesn't show up for work. A politician who doesn't tell the truth," the narrator tells voters. 


"I know what it takes to stand up and fight for conservative principles in Washington," Santorum says in one 30-second television ad that the independent Citizens United Political Victory Fund is bankrolling. "Chris McDaniel is a principled, conservative leader who will raise Mississippi's voice and vote your values in the Senate." 


Santorum, who served in the Senate with Cochran, did not mention his former colleague in the ad or in a statement announcing his endorsement. 


Palin, a former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, says in a 60-second radio ad that McDaniel is "running for the Senate to shake up the way things work up there." 


"Mississippians have a chance to send a message to Washington on June 3," says Palin. "Chris McDaniel is the type of guy who will fight for us. He'll fight for our values." 


McDaniel's cash-strapped campaign is paying for the ad featuring Palin. 


But much of the money in this race is coming from outside groups. 


The anti-tax Club for Growth alone has now spent more than $2.4 million on ads against Cochran. The grass-roots FreedomWorks, the anti-establishment Senate Conservatives Fund and a raft of tea party-aligned groups also have rallied behind McDaniel. Several candidates they backed in other states fizzled or failed, but McDaniel's campaign could give them a shot at redemption if he prevails on Tuesday. 


Strategists in both parties expect the winner of the Republican primary to win November's general election.




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