MERIDIAN, Miss._ — Sen. Thad Cochran came here Monday to make two emphatic points: He’s had it with the mudslinging, and he’s got support among voters born after he took office.
The veteran Mississippi Republican, first elected to the House of Representatives in 1972 and to the Senate six years later, made an unusual campaign appearance in a Union Station meeting room. He spoke from a podium, instead of his usual meet-and-greet style, and had some sharp words for his rival in the June 24 Senate runoff election, State Sen. Chris McDaniel.
About 75 people, most under 40, gathered to cheer him on. "I don’t know of any campaign that I’ve been involved in since I first ran for Congress in 1972 that’s full of more distortions and outright untruths used by candidates and used by political supporters who discredit me personally," he protested in a soft but firm voice.
"I think the time is now when we stop and just say...enough is enough," Cochran said. The room erupted with loud applause. "We’re not going to be influenced or intimidated by things that aren’t true or are designed to mislead the people."
Cochran offered no specifics. Outside groups spent about $5 million to defeat Cochran in the June 3 primary, and are once again involved in that effort. Club for Growth Action, for instance, has launched what it calls a large six-figure buy, and the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund plans an event Tuesday in Jackson.
Cochran was asked by the Sun-Herald Tuesday what about the campaign surprised him.
"I guess what surprises me the most is there’s been very little discussion about suggested changes in the laws. It seems that everything is a negative," he said. "There’s nothing the federal government could possibly do that would be helpful to our state or our nation.
"It’s like government is the enemy. That’s the mindset of my opponent," Cochran said. "I think that’s a big difference."
The half-hour campaign appearance also served another purpose: To show that Cochran, 76, can appeal to people from the generation of McDaniel, 41.
"I put him up there with my dad," said Susan Coffin, 49. "He’s proven his leadership in Washington. I’m not anti-McDaniel; I’m pro-Cochran," explained Tyler Walton, 37, a Meridian banker.
Justin Walton, 25, a Meridian human resources official, had a simple answer as to why he backed Cochran: "He voted against Obamacare."