by Matthew Boyle
Mississippi’s GOP senate primary is quickly becoming ground zero in 2014 for the fight between the establishment and the conservative grassroots for control of the Republican Party’s future. The state’s former governor Haley Barbour’s establishment political machine is in full swing running defense for incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. Cochran is facing the fight of his political life from surging primary challenger two-term state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
What has until now largely been a battle between Cochran and McDaniel facing off head-to-head is turning into the front line of the brutal and bloody political war between the Chamber of Commerce-style lobbyist big government Republicans and conservative grassroots focused Republicans who align with the Tea Party movement. Conservatives say Barbour and Cochran are examples of exactly what’s wrong with the party right now, while establishment figures say the exact same thing about the Tea Party.
The last several months have provided foreshadowing for the battle. Before McDaniels even announced he would challenge Cochran, Henry Barbour said McDaniels will have “his head handed to him, and that will be what he deserves” if he ran.
But on Wednesday, this fight between grassroots conservatives and establishment Republicans in Mississippi burst into open warfare.
“The battle lines are clearly drawn in this race,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in an emailed statement to Breitbart News. “This is Cochran and his band of super lobbyists vs. Chris McDaniel and the people of Mississippi. The Barbours don't represent Mississippians, they represent their lobbying client lists.”
In a story headlined “The Barbour Gang Rides to Thad Cochran’s Rescue,” Politico’s Alex Burns reported Wednesday how the Barbour family—a political platoon in and of itself armed with money, connections and experience—is working overtime to save Cochran’s seat in the U.S. Senate from the Tea Party movement backed McDaniel.
Barbour’s nephews, Henry and Austin Barbour, and Barbour himself, Burns wrote, are all an “integral part of the sophisticated political operation seeking to quash Cochran’s primary opponent from the GOP’s right flank.” Henry and Austin Barbour both serve in key roles for the Cochran re-election effort; Henry is the head of the pro-Cochran Super PAC Mississippi Conservatives PAC while Austin is a senior Cochran campaign strategist.
Both Barbour nephews have day jobs outside of their work for Cochran, too, in which they run multi-state lobbying outfits, but their work for Cochran is getting more serious because McDaniel is presenting a clearer and more present danger to the senior senator’s re-election chances. McDaniel just secured the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and on Wednesday the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund announced its support for him. He already has a consortium of national and state groups backing him up, ranging from the powerful Club For Growth to the grassroots-focused FreedomWorks and Tea Party Express, among scores of others.
Burns added that Cochran’s campaign expects Barbour himself, a political leader “who remains a Godfather-like figure in state politics three years after leaving office,” to stump for the senior senator from Mississippi “later in the race.” He has, however, Burns wrote, already raised money for both Cochran’s campaign and the senator’s Super PAC.
Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer told Breitbart News that Team Barbour is no match for the grassroots conservative movement already supporting McDaniel. “You can involve the entire Barbour family and all of their trusted ones on the payroll, but they will never have the strength of the grassroots,” Kremer said. “This mentality and the arrogance exhibited only emboldens the grassroots. We will not be intimidated, nor will we back down. This seat belongs to the people and not Senator Cochran or the Barbour family."
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