- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2014

BILOXI, Miss. — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum on Thursday endorsed state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s bid to unseat incumbent Thad Cochran in Mississippi’s high-profile Republican Senate primary.

Mr. Santorum, who is flirting with another presidential bid in 2016, praised Mr. McDaniel as a “proven conservative who will be guided by the U.S. Constitution as he voters on issues before the U.S. Senate.”

“He is particularly focused on finding ways to restore the American dream for blue collar Americans,” Mr. Santorum said. “Chris McDaniel will champion policies in the U.S. Senate that can provide economic opportunity and upward mobility for hard working families in Mississippi.”

Mr. Santorum, a staunch social conservative, was the top vote-getter in the 2012 GOP presidential primary in Mississippi. He served for 12 years in the Senate with Mr. Cochran, who is seeking his seventh term in the upper chamber.

With five days to go before Election Day, polls on the Mississippi race have been all over the place, with some showing Mr. Cochran holding a double-digit lead, and others showing Mr. McDaniel with the edge.

The contest is being viewed as the marquee matchup of the 2014 Republican primary season between the GOP establishment, which backs Mr. Cochran, and tea party-aligned and anti-establishment groups, which back Mr. McDaniel.

Both men are spending Thursday barnstorming the state for votes ahead of the the primary on Tuesday.

Mr. Cochran dropped in on the Mississippi Emergency Preparedness Summit here in Biloxi and has two other events planned.

Mr. McDaniel, meanwhile, has seven stops planned as part of his ongoing 25-city bus tour, which he kicked off earlier this week.

Mr. McDaniel has been endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as well as conservative radio talk show personalities Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham.

He also has the backing of the Club for Growth, Freedomworks and Tea Party Patriots. Mr. Cochran is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others.