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Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and a reputation for bringing in federal dollars. And now, after announcing he will seek his seventh term in the U.S. Senate on Friday, he has a tough primary challenge ahead.

Cochran — with his 81 percent rating from the far-right Club for Growth — will face Chris McDaniel, a personal friend of Fox News contributor and Red State editor-in-chief Erick Erickson.

Reports that McDaniel spoke at a Sons of Confederate Veterans event earlier this year prompted Erickson to reassert his support of the attorney/commentator.

McDaniel’s campaign said that the candidate did not, in fact, attend the event in September, because of a problem with a flight. But Mother Jones‘ Tim Murphy confirmed that he did speak at an event for the group in May and in previous years.

Tea Partiers are unshaken by McDaniel’s connection to the neo-confederate group and have began airing ads calling him the “rightful heir” to the incumbent’s seat.

Cochran was a conservative Democrat who became a Republican in the late 1960s largely, he said, because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was elected to the upper house of Congress in 1978. Though he’s reliably conservative, he is willing to forge compromises, which used to be acceptable behavior in the Senate before the Tea Party era. Conservative blogger David Freddoso believes the 83-year-old Cochran is running because the senator believes he will be the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2015 if the Republicans take the Senate.

“I think it is a losing strategy, because the public knows what Cochran’s done,” former Mississippi governor and chairman of the Republican National Committee Haley Barbour told a newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi. “But you’ve got a bunch of money from New York and all over from these groups that are putting up all the money, and they are led by people who have said, ‘We would rather have 30 pure conservative senators than the majority.’ Well, I’d rather have the majority, so that conservatives can make the policies that set the direction for the country.”

Primary challengers have displaced two incumbent Republican senators — Mike Bennett (R-UT) and Richard Lugar (R-IN). Mike Lee, who defeated Bennett, went on to win the seat while Richard Mourdock lost his Senate race after making a controversial comment about rape.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), are also facing challenges from the right.

“There’s definitely a war going on in the Republican Party, and I think the ultraconservative message of the Tea Party has gotten some traction here,” Otha Burton Jr., executive director of the Institute of Government at Jackson State University, told USA Today.

Burton predicted that if McDaniel wins, “It will cause a panic button to sound for the Republican Party’s establishment.”


Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.