A source familiar with discussions between Stephen K. Bannon and Mississippi state Sen. Christopher B. McDaniel told Big League Politics the senator looks to join Bannon’s 2018 war against the GOP establishment by opposing Sen. Roger Wicker.
“McDaniel has met with Steve both in Mississippi and in DC, he is ready to go,” said the source.
“After the 2014 race, everybody needed to step back, but McDaniel came so close before that he and a lot of people in Mississippi still need closure,” the source said.
In the 2014 Mississippi Republican Senate primary, McDaniel challenged Sen. Thad Cochran, just as Cochran was due to become the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee if the Republicans took the Senate in that midterm election—a position Cochran holds now.
In the June 3, 2014 primary vote, McDaniel beat Cochran, but his 49.6 percent fell short of the 50 percent minimum to avoid a runoff. In the June 24, 2014 runoff, Cochran came back to beat with 51 percent to McDaniel’s 49 percent.
It was in the McDaniel v. Cochran contest that the Republican establishment bared its teeth in ways it never does to take on Democrats.
The National Republican Senate Committee, led by Brad Dayspring and assisted by his go-to scribe The Hill reporter Alexandra Jaffe, planted stories painting McDaniel as a racist and tied the state senator to the clumsy dirty tricks by his supporters.
The most publicized of these dirty tricks was the filming of Cochran’s wife Rose in the long-term care facility that became her home for more than a decade. The tricksters then showed the images of the wife with images of Cochran carrying on with his assistant and traveling companion Kay Webber. There was never a connection established between McDaniel and the nursing home stunt, but that did not stop Jaffe from writing articles that suggested there was such a link.
In the three weeks before the runoff, the NRSC went so far as to go into black neighborhoods to register Democrats as Republicans.
Wicker is a classic example of what Bannon means when he calls out Republican officeholders, who take a few safe votes, but do nothing to advance the nationalist-populist agenda.
The Air Force veteran was a congressman when he was appointed to the Senate to fill the seat vacated by Lott’s resignation from the Senate. In 2012, he was elected to his own full term, putting him up for reelection in 2018.
During his tenure, Wicker has campaigned as a conservative and used conservative rhetoric, but his actual voting records betray why Bannon wants McDaniel to take him down.
Among Wicker’s troubling votes were his support for giving President Barack Obama fast-track negotiating authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Speaker Paul D. Ryan Jr.’s $305 billion highway pork bill, the $1 trillion 2014 farm subsidy and guaranteed income bill and many votes to increase the federal debt ceiling.
In the case of the 2013 “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill that would have granted amnesty to illegal aliens, Wicker pulled an old trick. First, he voted to end debate, on the bill joining 13 other Republicans. Cloture requires 60 votes and it is the only way to move forward on a non-budget related piece of legislation.
Often the 60-vote threshold is the serious obstacle, because once debate has closed, a measure passes with a simple majority.
What Wicker did with this bill was to vote against the bill itself for the folks back home, after betraying Senate conservatives trying to keep debate open for the purposes of blocking the bill, something the insiders recognize as being more helpful—for amnesty.