GOP Sen. Thad Cochran Aims for Victory in the Mississippi Primary

The senator, 76, hopes to defeat tea party challenger Chris McDaniel by appealing to African-American voters.
9:01 | 06/24/14

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Transcript for GOP Sen. Thad Cochran Aims for Victory in the Mississippi Primary
The Tea Party has another big name establishment Republican and their sights today. As the primary race between Mississippi senator Thad Cochran and challenger Christmas Daniel goes to the voters. Hello I'm Michelle Franzen in New York that 76 year old Cochran has held -- seat since 1978. Nick Daniel just 41 has been a Mississippi State senator for the past six years so how did it comes at this for Cochran. A good question for ABC news chief Washington correspondent jets Melanie who joins us now from Capitol Hill. Jeff this one has been called a nasty race tells a bit more about McDaniel and how he has made that such a close race. Michelle I think that's a pretty accurate take characterization even by Mississippi standards with you know its option has some tough politics but don't look. Thad Cochran quite frankly is just the latest. Incumbent to may have stayed around too long wolf both courts find in the -- that later tonight after we know what voters say but dot. You know he has been in Washington he first came to -- -- US congress in 1974. So he has been around for a long time and quite frankly. The thing that has worked every year every six years in the senate -- -- said -- I delivered from Mississippi I brought. -- back all these projects all this money will now that message does not resonate quite as well this at Tea Party spirit and movement. Is really being in body in his young challenger Chris McDaniel. Who says look enough of all this spending enough of all this big government. It's time for change so that is how Thad Cochran sort of got to this position he narrowly lost a run off a couple weeks ago. And that's why he is in -- race again today. And give us tonight did -- since that time -- about Cochran is didn't speak to supporters at a rally on the first primary night. This is of course a -- off by their questions about his behavior connection with voters as -- -- He has been trying to make this race more of a local race is trying to you know not talked to the national news media but he is going around. And campaigning and the strategy now at the Cochran campaign is that is turning to -- trying to get out African American voters to. -- polls and that's a traditional democratic constituency that he. It's trying to make the argument that look I have been here four US a US senator I've delivered for Mississippi. And he's trying to use. And some of his opponent's words against him and Chris McDaniel. Has had a few racially insensitive. Comments on a radio show he used to host so Thad Cochran's making the unusual. Attempt to try -- get African American Democrats to. -- polls to vote for him but today he's that this is a Republican primary and that is one of the I'm probably. One of the strongest best science that he does not have enough Republican support in the state at least in the primary to win so still on all accounts a very. -- race anything could happen but. The the energy is definitely with McDaniel and against that Cochran. In addition to all the nasty barbs going back and forth the chamber of commerce ran an ad on Cochran's behalf featuring Mississippi football favorite -- Brett Favre. How go over. There was interest -- -- -- Brett Favre he's a product of a Mississippi football to see him. -- -- suddenly injected into this he was. You know we're trying to broaden this is well he's trying to get in any time a politician uses an athlete or celebrity and now they're trying to broaden the appeal to gets a lot of media attention. Even on some sports Sports Radio channels and things that are trying to show that you know even if Brett Favre is with you -- Thad Cochran's a good guy but look at the end of the day. The the Tea Party spirit and energy. In the state is is behind -- Daniel so an ad for Brett Favre her from Brett Favre is probably not going to change that. It's sort of movement but it may attract a few more people to the polls. And we've talked a little bit about that mudslinging and let's listen to them -- their own words let's have a quick listen first of all to a particularly biting -- from Cochran it's called own words. And some questionable to be kind comments from McDaniel. You meet Chris McGinn who. So interest rates -- -- lets the -- and seniors and for us run prison that's Chris and again. Hot on the violent I don't think now -- recent boom baby. That's democratic candidate has -- -- McDaniel nothing. Mourners for and vote for everybody I'm not -- -- Christmas tunes -- origin. And they had comment in an improved business that -- her annual. Well it's certainly could hurt him with the wider. Share of the electorate probably not his own supporters and perhaps not even. In on a relatively a low turn -- primary but what -- Cochran campaign and supporters of Thad Cochran are trying to do. It is show that they believe that they Chris McDaniel. I'm does not. Have a wide appeal to the electorate is all of these things in his record he had a radio talk show for a long times of course he has a record of things that he is -- over the years you know including Simonsen the -- Things that probably. Are not acceptable to a lot of voters I think it hurts -- -- sense of growing his appeal growing his support. But among his core group of supporters should quite frankly are sick of Washington and sick of sending the same person back to Washington. I don't think it has that much. Much appeal because you know it simply is -- we're seeing this in and primary after primary there is a bit of an anti incumbency anti Washington this sentiment. A bless you interest squash out of the very beginning and Thad Cochran did not do that he allowed his opponent sort of rise up and that's why we are here today. And that's exactly right let's take a listen to -- -- caused the conservative Club for Growth released this but it's called entitled. Aimed at Cochran. It sent what's happened to Thad Cochran he served well but after five decades he's lost touch. In Washington he votes with the liberals and standing on judges even on funding and Oklahoma here. In Mississippi. He refuses to debate highlights from voters and -- mind. -- Cochran is entitled to respect he's not entitled to a lifetime seat in the senate. Club for -- -- responsible for the content of this advertising. -- sure I think that theme is what we heard at the very end of that -- and that's very important he's entitled respect but not a lifetime in the senate and that is. Aimed directly at people all this people across Mississippi who have voted for Thad Cochran before. And it's to give them permission slip if you will so you know I have -- before but in May be time for someone else so it's sort of a -- somewhat of a biting -- As you go through but I'm struck by the ending of that. It is really encouraged. It's going directly at some people who have voted for senator Cochran before and saying you know what I'm causing them to think maybe not this time maybe it is time for a new direction so we know what's going to be a close -- -- close race what could be different with boaters they go to the polls today. One of the things that could be different is just the makeup of the electorate if five. If the -- campaign is able to persuade in some independent voters reed and democratic voters anyone can vote in this race today. He could. Perhaps emerged as the -- winner but the momentum. On the conservative base side of things is definitely with McDaniel but let's not forget the Democrat there's not a Democrat on the -- -- hearing won his primary but he is -- former congressman named Travis Childers. And so. The reason that national Republicans are worried about. -- and you're winning it's because they believe that Travis Childers the Democrat. Could win the general election in the fall and if so that would complicate the Republican party's efforts to win back the senate. The only need six seats to win control. But the majority of the senate from Democrats and -- -- and you wins Democrats believe that. It maybe possible for them to win in Mississippi in the -- -- it it has national implications just because of that. But if if meet Daniel wins today the Tea Party and the the a conservative groups on the right we'll have another a feather in their -- coming on the heels of Eric -- surprising defeat in Virginia. And it will march on and try to find a one of their race to -- -- now as the primary season winds down. Another race with national implications keep our -- on ABC news senior Washington correspondent jets on thank you Michelle thank you. And of course you can keep up with this story by downloading the ABC news -- And star in this story or exclusive updates on the -- this has been an ABC news digital special report. -- -- -- -- --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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