WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said in a recent interview that he doesn't know much about the tea party, a comment allies of his conservative challenger quickly seized upon.

"The tea party, you know, is something I don't really know a lot about," Cochran said in an interview Monday with WLOX-TV in Mississippi. "And it's a free country. We have open opportunities for people to participate in the election process."

State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) is running to Cochran's right. He's backed by national tea party groups including the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund. The Club for Growth quickly posted a clip of Cochran's interview.

Cochran's campaign declined to comment.