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GOP civil war reaches Mississippi

Conservatives want to make Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran the first casualty of their anger.
Sen. Thad Cochran arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.
Sen. Thad Cochran arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Conservatives are looking to make Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran their first victim of the 2014 cycle.

The six-term senator, who voted in favor of Wednesday’s late night budget compromise that reopened the government and raised the debt limit, landed a GOP primary challenger the next day -- and influential groups are already throwing their weight behind him.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel announced his candidacy  on Thursday, and swiftly got the backing of both the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund – their first Senate endorsements of the 2014 cycle -- along with the Madison Project. 

"Chris McDaniel is a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop Obamacare, balance the budget, and get America working again," SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins said in a statement. "Chris McDaniel is not part of the Washington establishment and he has the courage to stand up to the big spenders in both parties. He's a principled leader who will make Mississippi proud."

“Senator Chris McDaniel represents the next generation of conservative leadership that Mississippi Republicans are waiting for,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “In the State Senate, Chris McDaniel led Mississippi’s fight against ObamaCare, opposed harmful tax increases, and stood strong against the big spenders in Jackson. It’s no wonder his colleagues named him the leader of Mississippi’s conservatives in the Mississippi State Senate and we have no doubt he’ll be a leader in the fight for economic freedom in the United States Senate.”

Cochran, 76, hasn’t definitively said whether he’ll run for re-election, and neither CFG of SCF overly attacked Cochran. But the Madison Project wrote that there is simply no justification from a conservative perspective to re-elect Cochran, "especially in a state as conservative as Mississippi. Like many old-bull Republicans, Thad Cochran has voted for endless spending, tax increases, abortion funding, energy regulations, and most recently – funding for Obamacare."

But their rush to throw their lot with McDaniel shows they not only want to pressure Cochran to take the easy exit, but that they want to stake a claim for McDaniel in what could be a crowded field if the senator does retire.

In the third quarter of the year, Cochran raised only $48,000 – hardly the cash needed for a statewide bid, even in an inexpensive state like Mississippi. He had $804,000 in the bank.