Well, here we go again. State Sen. Chris McDaniel has again anointed himself as the conservative messiah sent to save us from a successful incumbent U.S. senator.
Most will remember the nasty and controversial campaign McDaniel waged four years ago to unseat Sen. Thad Cochran. As described by the Biloxi Sun-Herald, "that GOP primary race dominated the media and TV advertising for months in one of the nastiest campaigns in Mississippi history. The vitriol led to a blogger’s burglary of a nursing home, the suicide of a Tea Party stalwart, and whispering campaigns about extra-marital affairs."
Now McDaniel wants to throw out Sen. Roger Wicker. There is no reason to expect the tone of this campaign will be any different.
However, the campaign itself will have a much different focus because of President Donald Trump. McDaniel says he aligns with and supports Trump, but Trump has issued a strong endorsement of Wicker. The night before McDaniel announced, Trump tweeted, "(Wicker) has been a great supporter and incredible help in getting our massive Tax Cut Bill done and approved. Also big help on cutting regs. I am with him in his re-election all the way!"
Nonetheless, you can tell from comments McDaniel makes that he views himself as a conservative hero — "I was Trump before Trump" he says — and a major player on par with Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. As recent as last November, he was touting his connection to Trump strategist Steve Bannon. Now, he distances himself from the disgraced Bannon. "It's very clear that I'm not a Bannon candidate," he said.
But, it appears McDaniel will have ample funding from Bannon's money group to wage his latest crusade. A super PAC called "Remember Mississippi" reported it had raised over $1 million to support McDaniel.
Funded primarily by right-wing mega donors Robert Mercer of New York ($500,000), Bannon's financial godfather, and Richard Uihlein of Illinois ($500,000), the super PAC as of December 31, 2017, reported contributions of $200 or more from 13 individuals, none from Mississippi.
The total raised was $1,099,745 with $247,657 already spent for political consultants, financial consultants, and media services. Among the expenditures was $9,500 to former State Sen. Melanie Sojourner of Natchez for political consulting.
"Mississippi deserves a constitutional conservative who holds the same values as Mississippians and is a consistent and strong voice for them in Washington, D.C.," said Tommy Barnett, treasurer of the PAC.
Can't you just picture Mercer and Uihlein sitting around, counting their gold, and saying how concerned they are that Mississippians have a voice?
Prior to his announcement, McDaniel told Mississippi Today, "You know the great thing about Robert Mercer is I've dined with him on many occasions and he's never asked me for anything. And it's really a remarkable thing for a politician not to be asked for anything."
Bless his heart. What's remarkable is McDaniel apparently does not realize that there is nothing a billionaire like Mercer might want from a lowly state senator of little accomplishment. The ask, more likely the tell, would come only if McDaniel gets elected. That's when mega donors like Mercer look for a return on their investment.
Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.