By Nic Corasaniti, New York Times, August 11, 2015
OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. – Perched on a barstool at Sweetpea’s Table here was a Tea Party favorite whose political rise alarmed the Republican leadership last year. And pacing the stage in front of him and delivering a rousing speech was Senator Ted Cruz.
Indeed, State Senator Chris McDaniel, who dragged Senator Thad Cochran into a primary runoff election last year and worried some Republican leaders that his brand of conservatism may hurt the party’s chances of winning the Senate, joined Mr. Cruz for the Mississippi leg of Mr. Cruz’s weeklong “Cruz Country” bus tour.
Mr. McDaniel seemed a perfect guest to accompany Mr. Cruz, who has had his own public battles with Senator Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership. Mr. Cruz even went as far as to name Mr. McDaniel his state co-chairman in Mississippi, hoping to tap the large conservative grass-roots movement that propelled Mr. McDaniel to a near victory in the Republican Senate primary last year. And Mr. McDaniel’s past — as a thorn in the side of Republicans like Mr. McConnell — only endears him more to Mr. Cruz.
“I am proud to stand with Senator Chris McDaniel,” Mr. Cruz told reporters before his event here. “And I’ll tell you, that primary result was clear and overwhelming, and I had been quite public in the past that the behavior of the D.C. Republican establishment in that runoff was shameful.”
Mr. McDaniel, who believes he would have won the Republican nomination in 2014 had there not been a high turnout among Democrats in the runoff election, is ready to turn out his grass-roots army for Mr. Cruz, whom he calls a great friend.
“He’s the pre-eminent conservative in this country,” Mr. McDaniel said of Mr. Cruz in an interview. “Mississippi still has an incredible grass-roots presence. If you look back at the race in 2014, we won with 60 percent of the Republican vote roughly, but if not for the crossover voters, we would have been successful. So, we feel like we can use our energy here and our momentum here to assist him in this state.”
It appears Mr. McDaniel’s supporters got the message. Both of Mr. Cruz’s events here drew hundreds of people; his morning event in Tupelo, where he had to speak from the flatbed of a Ford pickup truck to the overflow crowds, attracted more than 500 attendees, and 22,000 more tuned in through a live stream on Facebook.
There were also some in the crowd clutching “Cruz 2016” signs in one hand while holding older, bold red “Vote McDaniel” signs in the other. And Mr. McDaniel was greeted by a large round of applause when he stepped off the campaign bus ahead of Mr. Cruz.
“Prior to this, I was leaning towards Cruz,” said George Bogardus, 72, from nearby Satillo, Miss., who was also clutching signs supporting both men. “But Mr. McDaniel cemented it.”