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After Alabama, Republican insiders fear Steve Bannon could deliver Mississippi to Democrats, too

As Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel – a state Tea Party scion – contemplates mounting another U.S. Senate bid, alt-right kingpin Steve Bannon is helping lay the groundwork for him. That has establishment Republicans worried.

“Is Bannon going to huff and puff and blow up another Senate race?” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior political strategist Scott Reed, according to the Washington Post. “Or is he going to leave it alone?”

The GOP is anxious about any picks by the Breitbart head, after Bannon’s support of Roy Moore in Alabama resulted in Democrats picking up a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama earlier this month for the first time in decades.

McDaniel told the Post Moore’s loss was an “anomaly” that wouldn’t impact his decision-making.

In 2014, Mississippi saw one of the nastiest primary fights in years, when McDaniel challenged incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran. Cochran narrowly staved off McDaniel in a runoff, aided by black voters wary of McDaniel, whose critics labeled him a “neo-Confederate” due to his associations with pro-Confederate organizations.

McDaniel has spent the better part of 2017 targeting his ire at Mississippi’s other incumbent U.S. senator, Roger Wicker. Political insiders have long expected McDaniel to launch a bid against Wicker in 2018. By this time in 2014, however, McDaniel had already launched his campaign against Cochran.

If McDaniel does decide to run against Wicker, he faces an uphill climb. A mid-December Mason Dixon poll put McDaniel 16 points behind Wicker. Our polling aggregate has McDaniel trailing Wicker by 20.5 points. While polling this early – the primary isn’t until June 5 – is typically unreliable, McDaniel was further ahead of Wicker at this point in 2014.

McDaniel said he is waiting until January to decide. There are rumors that Cochran, whose health has been in question in recent months, could step down at the start of the year. Though Governor Phil Bryant would appoint a temporary replacement, a resignation would trigger an election in November 2018, putting both of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats on the ballot next November.

McDaniel told members of Bryant’s inner circle that, should Cochran resign or die, he would like to be appointed to fill the vacancy, according to The Post.

McDaniel said there had been “no official conversation” about “who might receive the appointment.”

In a statement, Bryant called the speculation “insensitive.”

“Mississippi is stronger because of Sen. Cochran’s service, and I look forward to it continuing,” Bryant said in a statement. “Speculation about anything else is insensitive, irresponsible and unfair.”

McDaniel said he is also exploring the idea of mounting a bid for Mississippi lieutenant governor. The U.S. Senate filing deadline is in March.

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