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The Mississippi Senate race looks like it is about to get much more brash and much more conservative. A new, yet very familiar, challenger is expected to enter the GOP primary just hours before the March 1 filing deadline.
After months of speculation, a source confirmed to ABC News that Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel is expected to announce his candidacy Wednesday in the upcoming Senate primary, challenging incumbent Sen. Roger Wicker. Politico was first to report the news.
But the incumbent got his own injection of publicity ahead of McDaniel's announcement, as President Donald Trump on Tuesday night endorsed Wicker on Twitter, writing, Wicker "has been a great supporter" in the past.
.@SenatorWicker of Mississippi has been a great supporter and incredible help in getting our massive Tax Cut Bill done and approved. Also big help on cutting regs. I am with him in his re-election all the way!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2018
The president’s tweet possibly came as a response to a Facebook Live event held by McDaniel on Monday. The ultra-conservative, anti-establishment Republican teased during the event he would be announcing his run on Wednesday at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi.
The Wicker campaign told ABC News they had no comment following McDaniel’s Facebook Live presentation.
McDaniel responded to the president’s tweet about 30 minutes later, writing on Facebook, “I understand Donald Trump just Tweeted his support of Roger Wicker. In response, I would simply offer the following: Mr. President, I admire your leadership and ability to get things done for the American people, and I want you to know that you have my full support. We are lucky to have you.”
McDaniel entering the race could pose a threat to Mississippi's junior senator and further split the Republican party through appealing to the same base that supported him in 2014. That primary made the state politician a national name after he nearly upset Sen. Thad Cochran in a tightly contested and often ugly race.
The 45-year-old McDaniel has embraced a sometimes controversial and often faith-based platform in the past. His official Facebook page shared a meme on Tuesday blaming school shootings on kids not reading the Bible or praying in school. He is also anti-abortion, saying, "I don't like being lectured about gun control by liberals who abort the unborn," and he has come out against many gun control steps in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting. He said he is against raising the age to purchase a gun to 21 years old and wrote in a Facebook post, "Background check for gun owners??? When was the last time Congress proposed a background check for illegal aliens?"
McDaniel additionally earned an early endorsement from political strategist and former Trump aide Steve Bannon. After the former adviser’s falling out with Trump, Bannon's support could be viewed as a disadvantage to the candidate.
“It’s very clear that I’m not a Bannon candidate. I was running for office against the establishment when Bannon was starting with Breitbart,” McDaniel told Mississippi Today earlier this month. “We don’t feel like the association, however loosely configured it is, can hurt us because people understand that we were doing this well before Bannon came on the scene.”
McDaniel has money to back him up if he does announce a Senate run Wednesday as expected. The super PAC Remember Mississippi says it has raised more than $1 million to support the state senator’s political endeavors. Prior to McDaniel’s Tuesday live-stream, Remember Mississippi treasurer Tommy Barnett said in a statement, “Mississippi deserves a constitutional conservative who holds the same values as Mississippians. ... We can’t wait to support a McDaniel run.”
In Tuesday's live-stream, McDaniel told viewers his message is clear: “I just believe in the message of conservatism and strongly in its platform. And, I believe that we have an opportunity now to make change. ... We’re looking for a fight, and I can’t wait to have you on my team again.”