Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran was upbeat this week that he will prevail over his tea-party-backed Republican primary challenger when voters go to the polls in June.
"I'm very pleased. I'm enjoying getting around the state and visiting with friends and supporters," Cochran said in a brief interview. "We're making good progress, I think, in our campaign. We have more candidates than we've had in a Senate race I think since my first race for Congress in 1972 — independents, a Democrat or two and a Republican or two."
Cochran and his supporters, including a super PAC, are making the case about the importance of the clout of the longtime GOP senator. A recent super PAC ad specifically highlighted Cochran's work to bring federal funds to rebuild the ravaged Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, dinging challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel for his comments on the aid question.
To be sure, Cochran is a Republican not running away from his record. Asked if he would favor the return of congressional-directed spending through earmarking, Cochran highlighted his influence.
"There are ways to persuade the administration on issues that are important to, you know, not just Mississippi but other — our region and other states as well. It's not all just a matter of appropriating money, but policies that are importing to help small towns and rural communities and those who live there enjoy a high quality of life," Cochran told CQ Roll Call on Thursday.
Speaking about his many years on the Appropriations panel, Cochran focused on his national security efforts. He currently serves as the ranking member on the Defense subcommittee.
"Our national defense, you know, is our highest priority, the security of the country, and a lot of the things that I've done as a member of the Appropriations Committee and chair at one time enables me to be an influence in that process," Cochran said. "And most people appreciate the success we've had keep our country strong and free."
Cochran would have the seniority to claim the gavel of the full Appropriations Committee if Republicans take back control of the Senate in 2014, and Mississippi has no shortage of military installations.
While former Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., has announced he will seek the Senate seat, the race is still viewed squarely in the GOP column, with a Safe Republican rating from Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.