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Santorum, Palin support challenger in Miss. race

The Mississippi state senator challenging longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in next week's Senate primary picked up the backing of former presidential contender Rick Santorum and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on Thursday.

Santorum and Palin were the latest conservative darlings to back Chris McDaniel, whose challenge to Cochran has become one of the few potential success stories for the tea party this election year. Outside groups have poured millions into the race, which illustrates the split within the GOP between rank-and-file activists and establishment-minded operatives and donors.

"Chris McDaniel will champion policies in the U.S. Senate that can provide economic opportunity and upward mobility for hard-working families in Mississippi," Santorum said in a statement released from McDaniel's campaign.

Santorum, who served in the Senate with Cochran, did not mention his former colleague.

Palin, a former Alaska governor, says in a 60-second radio ad that McDaniel is "running for the Senate to shake up the way things work up there."

"Mississippians have a chance to send a message to Washington on June 3," Palin says ad. "Chris McDaniel is the type of guy who will fight for us. He'll fight for our values."

Cochran's allies are trying to help the 76-year-old senator to win a seventh term.

A pro-Cochran super PAC, Mississippi Conservatives, is running a 60-second radio ad featuring former Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi.

"Thad's up for re-election next Tuesday and I'm proud to support him," Lott says in the ad. "I know that Thad loves Mississippi, and every time we've needed him and called on him, he's been there."