Some folks are trying to make a big deal out of Sen. Thad Cochran's admission that he doesn't know much about the Tea Party or state Sen. Chris McDaniel, his opponent in the U.S. Senate race.
Allow me just one time in my life to be a little different.
I think it's a brilliant strategy -- and I'm pretty sure the senior senator is just yanking McDaniel's chain. It is quite a putdown. McDaniel McDaniel the fiddle player?
Just like that, Cochran, a politician with decades of experience, has labeled his opponent a nobody. And McDaniel took the bait, spreading the story near and far.
One of McDaniel's patrons, the Club for Growth, turned it into a 10-second sound bite and posted it on YouTube where it racked up 788 pages views by Wednesday morning. Hey, it's hard to compete with bad karaoke and kids falling off skateboards.
I'd be willing to bet you wouldn't have to go far in South Mississippi to find 788 people who have no idea who McDaniel is.
It is the nature of the campaign. The majority of people aren't fully engaged in an election that's more than three months away and scarcely any read The Hill and the National Review -- two of the websites noted in McDaniel's latest email blast -- for their coverage of Cochran's comments.
If McDaniel has been near the Coast since his October appearance in St. Martin, he's been lying pretty low. No one at the Sun Herald, the region's largest newspaper/website, has seen him, but he was in Picayune a few days ago to get endorsed by the Pearl River Patriots.
Pioneering health care
"How do you think that man (the pioneers) would have reacted if he were told that the government a thousand miles away was going to force him to purchase health insurance?" McDaniel reportedly asked the crowd (according to Picayune journalist David A. Farrell's website).
Uh. The pioneers? Health insurance?
They probably could tell you about the federal government's Homestead Act -- since that was the reason many of them were pioneering in the first place.
The rest was McDaniel boilerplate: smaller government, less spending, no details.
Which is why Cochran is free to define McDaniel. We the people -- outside his circle of friends and backers -- don't really know him. He criticizes Cochran for staying in D.C. and not being in touch with the folks back home.
Yet McDaniel's big financial backers seem to be from out of state. (He could clear that up by releasing his finance report.)
And he gets his legislative marching orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Give him liberty
His website says his signature act in the Senate was getting the Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013 -- which now allows for religious activities in our schools by Muslims, Scientologists, devil-worshippers and anyone else who decides to claim to have a religion. I'm sure he meant well.
This year, his legislative agenda is littered with the word "died" next to most of the bills he wrote. My favorite -- which I have nicknamed the Defense of Polio Act -- would exempt students from the vaccination requirement for public schools.
He wants to "apply for a United States Article V Amendments Convention" and "prohibit state cooperation with a federal effort to ban" firearms.
But we want to know more.
Come on down
So I invite McDaniel once again to come to South Mississippi and tell us who he is. Not with a half-minute appearance before cameras (note to self, don't get between the state senator and the cameras this time), not with a stump speech about the Founders and the Constitution and the declining culture. A discussion about exactly what he would cut to get us out of debt, what he would do about the cost of insurance in South Mississippi, what he would do to bring or create jobs for the state's unemployed. Tell us what working people with no insurance should do when they get sick.
Just don't bring the boogeyman. But you can bring Ron Vincent, so you'll be the best-known candidate in the room.
Paul Hampton is politics editor at the Sun Herald. Reach him at 896-2330 or email@example.com