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Tea Party-backed candidates try to ride Brat victory wave in remaining primaries

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March 18, 2014: Mississippi state Senator Chris McDaniel speaks during a town hall meeting in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. (REUTERS)

Tea Party-backed candidates are trying to ride the momentum after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss earlier this week, with their campaigns and supporters trying to fundraise off the upset by portraying their incumbent opponents as out of touch with voters.

In Mississippi, six-term GOP incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran has been locked in a neck-and-neck race with Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel.

McDaniel, a Tea Party-backed state senator, hopes the energy from upstart candidate Dave Brat’s GOP primary win Tuesday over Cantor for a House seat in Virginia might propel him to victory in his June 24 runoff with Cochran.

The morning after Brat’s victory, McDaniel was essentially touting Brat’s winning strategy -- suggesting Cochran, like Cantor, is out of touch with district voters and backs giving “amnesty” to the millions of people now living illegally in the United States.

“Sen. Cochran has supported amnesty in the past,” McDaniel said on the conservative radio show “Focal Point.”

Cochran's campaign has rebuffed the "amnesty" accusation, noting the senator has voted against every "comprehensive immigration reform bill" that included an "amnesty" provision since 1986.

The senator also opposes consideration of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants before securing the border and addressing other law enforcement issues.

"This is a typical trial lawyer lie from plaintiff attorney Chris McDaniel. Senator Cochran has a flawless record in opposition to amnesty, something no other candidate in this race can say," Cochran spokesman Jordan Russell said in a statement, noting: "Just today, Chris McDaniel embraced Ron Paul's endorsement, a man who has advocated for tearing down the Mexican border fence."

Russell knocked McDaniel's "dangerous rhetoric" and suggested, "Maybe he should go back to hosting talk radio."

McDaniel, however, said Cochran was “very much like Cantor” when considering their “poor” record on immigration. And he tried to portray his incumbent rival as out of touch with district voters.

“He’s never around the people,” McDaniel said. “He never holds town halls. … What he needs to do is come home and learn what conservative-ism is.”

The Tea Party-affiliated groups that have given financial support to the McDaniel campaign are also trying to cash in on the Cantor loss.

“The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last night shocked the out-of-touch media and political establishment,” the Tea Party Express said in a fundraising email to supporters. “Much like Cantor who shunned the Tea Party to his own peril, Thad Cochran continues to ignore us and discount us. Please join us and make sure that Thad Cochran is the next out of touch career politician to receive the message that we will not be ignored.”

There are still 22 primaries on the 2014 schedule, which creates possibilities for another under-the-radar win like Brat’s.

Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr, who is challenging GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander for his Senate seat, is trying to emerge as one of those primary candidates.

“Washington remains in shock after an unknown college professor upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor,” the Carr campaign said in an email blast Thursday. “And many people are now asking: Who is the next Dave Brat? His name is Joe Carr."

"One of the primary reasons Eric Cantor lost was that he was perceived as an out-of-touch Washington insider. The same perception holds true for Lamar Alexander in Tennessee," the email said. 

Carr is also trying to compare his efforts in the August 7 primary with Alexander to McDaniel’s efforts.

“Carr is about where Chris McDaniel was in Mississippi at the same time out from the election, and McDaniel received more votes than Mississippi political legend Thad Cochran. This is a wild political season and it isn't over yet,” his campaign said.