POLITICS: PennAve

Mississippi Senate challenger heads to Kentucky to push 'freedom' at rally with Matt Bevin

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Senate,Mitch McConnell,Kentucky,Mississippi,2014 Elections,David M. Drucker,Campaigns,PennAve,Matt Bevin,Thad Cochran

Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel is heading to Kentucky to lend his support to fellow insurgent GOP primary challenger Matt Bevin -- or so it would appear.

McDaniel, a state senator, is hoping to oust Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi's June 3 Republican primary. But on April 5, McDaniel plans to take a brief detour from the campaign trail in the Magnolia State and travel to Louisville, Ky., to speak at “FreePAC Kentucky.” The event, sponsored by FreedomWorks, is a political rally being staged to boost Bevin, the wealthy businessman running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky's May 20 Republican primary.

FreedomWorks is billing the Louisville event as a national gathering of conservative activists and pundits, with television host Glenn Beck mentioned as the featured guest. FreedomWorks is among the Washington-based Tea Party groups backing McDaniel over Cochran and Bevin over McConnell. Republican insiders rate McDaniel's chances higher than Bevin's. But the Mississippi race is far from decided, and it's unusual for a candidate in McDaniel's position to get involved in another state's GOP primary.

In a press release, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe described McDaniel’s scheduled appearance at FreePAC Kentucky, held at the Kentucky International Convention Center, this way:

“Chris McDaniel is one of the principled leaders who will undoubtedly guide the future of the freedom movement. He fought tirelessly to protect the individual freedoms of Mississippians, and his dedication will be an inspiration to activists nationwide. We are excited to have him join Matt Bevin and Glenn Beck on the stage at FreePAC Kentucky.”

The McDaniel campaign is downplaying the underlying purpose of FreePAC Kentucky, which is to provide a much-needed shot of adrenaline to a Bevin candidacy that has yet to gain traction. Rather, the Mississippian’s team described his appearance at the event as an opportunity to connect with fellow travelers in the conservative movement.

“FreePAC is an opportunity to enjoy some fellowship and shared ideas with fellow conservatives from around the country who share the core values Mississippians hold dear," McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch said in comments emailed to the Washington Examiner.

The Cochran campaign is likely to pounce on McDaniel’s trip to Kentucky as it seeks to paint the incumbent as prioritizing Mississippi and the challenger as angling to become a Washington big shot.

“He’s a show pony; the guy loves to make a speech. He loves the attention,” said Mississippi Republican operative Henry Barbour, who is advising Cochran. “I don’t know that it’s dawned on him that nobody [in Kentucky] can vote for him.”

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