Trump endorses Wicker, snubs supporter Chris McDaniel

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Susan Walsh, AP

President Donald Trump speaks at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson in December. 

President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker for re-election in a tweet Tuesday, hours ahead of state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s expected announcement that he will challenge Wicker in the GOP primary.

“Senator Wicker of Mississippi has been a great supporter and incredible help in getting our massive Tax Cut Bill done and approved. Also big help on cutting regs. I am with him in his re-election all the way!” Trump tweeted.

Trump wasted little time getting ahead of McDaniel’s expected announcement. In some ways the move mirrors Alabama’s special Senate election last year, when Trump endorsed Republican establishment incumbent Sen. Luther Strange. Strange later lost the GOP nomination to anti-establishment candidate Roy Moore, who was publicly backed by McDaniel. But Moore lost the seat to Democrat Doug Jones in the end.

McDaniel has been a vocal supporter of Trump, regularly contrasting Wicker’s voting record with the president’s policies and stirring debate on social media about whether establishment Republicans have interfered with the president’s ability to lead.

In January, McDaniel asked his Facebook followers: “Why would any Trump supporter vote for Roger Wicker?

In an interview with Mississippi Today earlier this year, McDaniel downplayed the possibility of Trump endorsing Wicker as “part of the chess game (Trump is) playing.”

“Though (Trump) may have to endorse a Luther Strange, in his heart of hearts, he would much rather see new people in Washington,” McDaniel said. “He made that promise to us on the campaign trail, and I believe him. I don’t think he’s equivocated. I think he’s fighting a monstrous system that doesn’t like him very much, and as part of his fight, he sometimes has to endorse the Luther Stranges and the Roger Wickers to get his point across.”

In November, McDaniel posted: “Roger Wicker is deceiving us. He says he votes with Trump, but what does that REALLY mean? Check this out. Mitch McConnell ‘votes’ with Trump 96.1 percent of the time, while Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker ‘vote’ with him 96.2 percent of the time. MOST of the votes are simple confirmations.”

Wicker, responding to some mud McDaniel was slinging, has run several television and social media ads touting the senator’s 96 percent voting record with Trump. Minutes after this story posted, a Wicker campaign member texted Mississippi Today to note that the senator’s voting record is now 97% in line with Trump.