Mississippi voters are choosing a Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, ending one of the state's hardest fought and most expensive races in decades.
Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for the statewide primary runoff between six-term incumbent Thad Cochran of Oxford and a tea party-backed challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville.
The only voters banned from casting a Republican ballot Tuesday are those who voted in the Democratic primary June 3.
McDaniel finished 1,418 votes ahead of Cochran in the earlier three-person primary, but nobody received a majority to win.
"Right now, somewhere in Washington, I'm starting to sense some trembling," McDaniel, 41, told supporters at a rally Monday night in Flowood. "And by tomorrow evening, every one of those men and women will know that we're tired of the backroom deals; we're tired of the business as usual; we're tired of the favoritism; we're tired of the cronyism. We'll remind them once and for all that this is our country and they work for us."
Cochran, 76, has a more low-key campaign style, typically making short speeches that focus on his record of bringing billions of dollars to Mississippi for disaster relief, military bases, agriculture and research. He says he tries to work with all members of the state's congressional delegation — one other Republican senator, and one Democrat and three Republicans in the House.
"On the fundamental issues that confront our country, I think our delegation sticks together more than most, and we try to make sure that Mississippi's voice, when it is heard in Washington, is effective for our state and produces the results that you have a right to expect," Cochran, a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, said Sunday at a campaign event in Gulfport.
The Republican nominee for Senate advances to the general election to face the Democratic nominee, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, and the Reform Party's Shawn O'Hara, who has run for dozens of offices the past two decades.
Kay Rodabouth, 73, of Madison, a retired saleswoman for technical equipment, is supporting McDaniel.
"We're trying to change the direction of Washington, D.C., to let Washington know we're talking about change — not the change that Obama talked about," Rodabouth said last week in Madison at a McDaniel rally for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a 2008 Republican candidate for president.
"I'm tired of the lobbyists running Washington right now. That, and I'm tired of you-know-who," Rodabouth said, meaning the president.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, who's backing Cochran, said the runoff is a referendum on what the longtime senator has done for the state.
"More importantly, it is about what he has still yet to do for Mississippi." With each state having two senators, Hewes said, "Like it or not, seniority counts."