WIGGINS, Miss. — State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) challenged a church crowd here to fight to revive America’s Christian foundation during a Sunday speech at a southern Mississippi Pentecostal church.
“Today is the day we begin to fight again,” he told about 80 worshipers gathered at the Word Alive Revival Center. “Go back out in your communities and make a difference again. It can’t just stop at the church. Take it out to the streets. That’s when you begin to reclaim your country again.”
The Tea Party-backed candidate made no mention of his own challenge to Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranA guide to the committees: Senate Mulvaney sworn in as White House budget chief Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief MORE (R-Miss.), the primary date just two weeks away, or any political issues.
He offered none of the indictments of Cochran’s record that he delivered to a smaller crowd on Saturday afternoon. That record has caused conservative frustration with Cochran and made him the incumbent most vulnerable to a primary challenge this cycle.
Instead, McDaniel delivered a political sermon of sorts, drawing from the scripture of the Founding Fathers to make a case for Christians to stand up and fight to reclaim America’s culture and re-establish the nation’s Christian foundation.
He quoted an array of American figures endorsing America's Christian values and encouraging a God-fearing nation, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and others.
“The reason it matters, the reason your foundation matters is because your rights come from God. They do not come from the state. You were born with those rights. … They cannot be transferred; they can never be taken from you,” he declared. Shouts of “that’s right” from the crowd punctuated his speech.
Rev. Mike Dobbs, the church’s pastor, noted McDaniel’s run for Senate in his introduction of the candidate, and gave him a ringing endorsement, declaring that the first time he heard McDaniel speak “I felt my heart beat.”
But McDaniel largely stayed away from overtly political themes in his speech.
While political observers agree he has a strong shot at unseating Cochran, the senator has rallied much of Mississippi’s political establishment behind him and has a super-PAC with connections to former Gov. Haley Barbour backing his candidacy. That group has aired attack ads and issued mailers hammering McDaniel for everything from his voting record in the state Senate to previous controversial comments he made while he was a talk radio host.
McDaniel’s opponents have pointed to those controversial comments as evidence he could become a liability for the GOP if he wins the nomination. His campaign, however, has dismissed the focus on the comments and argued they were just made in jest as part of his job.
And on Sunday, McDaniel did, at one point, seem to hint at some of the troubles that have dogged his candidacy.
“We on the right, particularly Christians, we feel a bit insecure about our imperfections,” he said. “But my knowledge of my imperfections does not mean that I should be silent. God knows you’re imperfect. He wants you to fight nevertheless.”
In advice he could’ve as easily given himself, McDaniel told the church crowd, “Don’t let them silence you because you’ve made mistakes in your life. Use those mistakes to build a better life and fight for your life and your kids life.”