Who could be the next Ted Cruz? Top 10 tea party primaries of 2014.

In five years, the tea party has launched some of the most charismatic and controversial Republicans in office today, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Who are the movement’s top candidates this cycle, and what are their prospects? Here’s a look:

1. Mississippi: Chris McDaniel vs. Thad Cochran

Timothy D. Easley/AP
US Senate candidate Chris McDaniel (R) of Mississippi speaks to a gathering at FreePAC Kentucky earlier this month at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville. He is in a runoff with incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran for the GOP nomination.

Update: Tea party-backed Chris McDaniel won 49.5 percent of the vote in the June 3 Republican primary, and six-term Sen. Thad Cochran (R) got 49 percent. A third candidate got 1.5 percent. Because no one won a majority, state Senator McDaniel and Senator Cochran will compete again in a runoff on June 24.

Here’s the background: In the early going, McDaniel was seen as the strongest challenger to a sitting US senator this cycle – and the result on June 3 bore that out. He’s a young (early 40s), energetic trial lawyer and former talk radio host, with six years' service in the state legislature – and he believes Cochran is an old-style, big-spending Washington politician.  

The tea party movement gives McDaniel’s campaign energy on the ground, though Cochran’s establishment-backed campaign was able to spur turnout based on his 42 years of bringing home the bacon.

Scandal broke out late in the campaign: A McDaniel supporter was arrested for allegedly posting a video on YouTube with pictures of Cochran’s bedridden wife. Three other men with tea party ties were arrested for conspiracy. The McDaniel campaign says it was not involved, but the incident stalled the candidate’s momentum for a time.

Mississippi Democrats nominated former US Rep. Travis Childers. They hope McDaniel wins the primary, then blows up in the general, as has happened in the last two cycles with tea party-backed nominees. A Democratic pickup in deep-red Mississippi is improbable, but if it happened, that would set back the Republican drive to retake the Senate.

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