Sen. Roger Wicker, who is expected to face stiff competition in his 2018 re-election bid, launched a new campaign store featuring hats and drink koozies reading, “Clinging to my guns and religion since 1817.”
The campaign gear, which is being sold on a website called “Roger Wicker’s Great Campaign Store!” and paid for by Wicker’s campaign committee, is being advertised on several national political sites this week. The swag comes in several colors, including camouflage.
One ad reads: “Hunting season is here! Sport our camo hat today!”
Wicker, a Republican who has served in the Senate since 2007, may be challenged by state Sen. Chris McDaniel, an arch-conservative party member backed by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Bannon, who has waged war on Washington’s establishment Republicans for years, has renewed that mission since leaving the White House in August, promising to dismantle the capital’s establishment system of Republican politicians, lobbyists and donors.
Wicker, a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is among Bannon’s specifically named targets in 2018.
Although McDaniel has not announced whether he’ll run for the Senate seat next year, he has quietly been laying the groundwork for a campaign against Wicker for months.
His Facebook page — which has 70,000 more likes than Wicker’s — serves as the hub for his base with multiple posts from McDaniel per day.
For months, McDaniel has pointedly criticized Wicker’s “liberal voting record” and his inability to work with other Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. McDaniel also has roused support from conservatives by highlighting Wicker’s desire to change the state flag, which is the last in the nation containing the Confederate battle emblem.
Further laying the groundwork for a potential McDaniel 2018 bid is a group of donors, led by the billionaire Mercer family, who are close political allies with Bannon. McDaniel told Mississippi Today last month that at least $1 million has been pledged to fund a Wicker challenger in Mississippi.
Robert Mercer already dropped a first check in a McDaniel-tied super PAC, as chronicled in a Y’all Politics report.
In the last week, McDaniel pushed about a dozen anti-Wicker messages on social media, including a screen grab of Wicker’s “liberal voting record” and a link to a Breitbart article claiming that Wicker has been part of “Haley Barbour’s political machine for decades” — yet another jab at Washington’s establishment.
Wicker’s new campaign gear is a play to Mississippi’s conservative base, who highly value both religion and Second Amendment rights.