Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour defended Sen. Thad Cochran Wednesday, warning in an op-ed for a local newspaper that the veteran GOP lawmaker is under attack from hypocrites and “out-of-state phonies” who are distorting his record ahead of the Republican primary this summer.
Mr. Barbour, a major GOP fundraiser, said Mr. Cochran led the effort to pass emergency disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and said that he doesn’t “know where we would be today if not for his effectiveness.”
“Sen. Cochran has not only represented Mississippi well in the Senate, he was the giant who stood tall and produced for our state at our greatest hour of need after Katrina,” Mr. Barbour said.
Mr. Barbour said that voters should be weary of some of the outside groups that are funneling money into the race — taking particular aim at former Indiana Rep. Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, which is backing Mr. Cochran’s primary opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniels.
Mr. Chocola wrote an op-ed earlier this month in which he criticized Mr. Cochran for accumulating a “liberal voting record” during his 42 years in the Senate.
“Chocola attacked Sen. Cochran for voting to increase the federal debt ceiling,” Mr. Barbour said. “What Chocola doesn’t say is that he himself voted to increase the federal debt ceiling every time it came up while he was in Congress. So this ‘gentleman’ attacks Cochran for doing exactly what he did every chance he got during his four years in Congress. How hypocritical can you get?”
The back-and-forth underscore how the GOP primary race in Mississippi is shaping up to the biggest 2014 battleground in the ongoing battle between the GOP establishment and grassroots groups over the future direction of the party.
In the op-ed Wednesday, Mr. Barbour said Mr. Chocola made a “fraudulent claim” by charging that Mr. Cochran voted to fund Obamacare.
“What Chocola claims as voting to fund Obamacare was actually the fact that Thad Cochran voted to reopen the federal government after the shutdown last October,” he said. “The federal government shutdown, which was a failed political tactic, threatened the livelihoods of tens of thousands of workers on the coast, from Ingalls Shipyard to Keesler Air Force Base, from the Seabee Base to Stennis Space Center, and more.”