This post has been updated.
OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. - Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wasn't the only politician who has painted himself as a foe of Washington shaking hands and addressing voters here Tuesday.
Cruz traveled around Mississippi with state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a controversial tea party favorite who lost a U.S. Senate runoff race to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran last year. McDaniel, who has made what critics said were insensitive comments on gender and race in the past, represented the fears the Republican establishment has about the tea party. The establishment did all it could to defeat McDaniel, who later contested the election and alleged that Cochran's campaign participated in voter fraud.
Now Cruz is hoping to use McDaniel to galvanize the grassroots here in Mississippi and tap into the anger at the establishment in this state. It is also not the first state where someone who has made controversial or inflammatory comments has been part of a Cruz leadership team.
"I am proud to stand with Senator Chris McDaniel," Cruz told reporters here. The Texas Republican slammed the "D.C. machine" over McDaniel's loss last year and called for a voter fraud investigation. McDaniel is now Cruz's state co-chair here.
"I’ll tell you, that primary result was clear and overwhelming. And I had been quite public in the past that the behavior of the DC Republican establishment in that runoff was shameful," Cruz said.
McDaniel's campaign was mired in controversy after a supporter of his allegedly snuck into the nursing home where Cochran's wife, who was incapacitated and bedridden, lived, and took photos of her. McDaniel denied any knowledge of the efforts and said his campaign had nothing to do with it. The man who police said went into the nursing home was arrested, as were three others. Days after the runoff race, one of the men committed suicide.
McDaniel, standing on the bed of a vintage pickup truck in Tupelo, Miss., slammed the establishment, saying that people are sick "of the Jeb Bushes of the world" and took a dig at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"Let me tell you a little something about this country. You wouldn’t be here right now if you were happy with the status quo," McDaniel said. "Conservatives, look at me. We’re awake again. There’s nothing they can do to stop us."
In an interview here in the restaurant where the men campaigned here in Olive Branch, McDaniel said Cruz is a friend and he is ready to help him win Mississippi.
"Senator Cruz is the preeminent conservative in this country. The people of our state are conservatives and he's going to win this state easily as a result of the grassroots that we’ve helped develop," McDaniel said.
It is not the first time Cruz has chosen a controversial figure to be on his state leadership team. In June, one of Cruz's South Carolina campaign co-chairs said that victims of a shooting rampage at a historic black church in Charleston "waited their turn to be shot." Another South Carolina co-chair led the charge to keep the Confederate flag on the state house grounds and made anti-gay comments in a speech about the flag on the state senate floor. In Tennessee, Cruz's state chair once called for a state resolution condemning the governor for appointing a Muslim man appointed to a state board, calling him a "Shariah compliant finance expert."
Cruz's campaign has stood by its supporters.