State Sen. Chris McDaniel is in second place in his campaign for U.S. Senate, according to a recent Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey.

So far, he is the only one running. Incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran has not yet announced his intentions, although his decision whether to seek re-election to a seventh term or retire is expected sometime this month.

Some speculated Cochran was holding off on an announcement until after the Farm Bill was concluded. Cochran currently serves as the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee and has long been a leader on the side of Southern agricultural economics in their struggle over policies with other parts of the country, mainly the Midwest.

A retiring Cochran might be viewed as a weaker player in Farm Bill negotiations. Putting off a decision until after the Farm Bill, under that thinking, is only necessary if he chooses not to run for re-election.

I think it is more likely that Cochran hasn't wanted the distraction of campaign politics to interfere with policy negotiations. While some are optimistic the Farm Bill will pass before Thanksgiving, many think it could be late December. I think the Farm Bill's impact on Cochran's timing is a reasonable theory, but I don't think it is a deciding factor.

But only Cochran knows for sure.

Cochran, an Ole Miss grad, received cheers and a cowbell salute in Starkville last weekend where he participated in the coin toss at midfield before Mississippi State University faced number one ranked University of Alabama in football.

Whether or not Cochran takes the field in the 2014 Senate race, McDaniel is already facing scrimmages with another potential contender, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

The dustup was reported by the Clarion Ledger and the Laurel Leader Call.

According to election records, McDaniel voted in the 2003 Democratic Primary and failed to vote in the 2008 Republican Primary.

If you're a Republican data management operative making voter turnout decisions for direct mail, door knocks and phone calls, you'd call McDaniel's record a "soft Republican" or "weak Republican" which isn't exactly what a candidate running for the right flank of the party wants.

A member of Hosemann's official staff went to Jones County to verify the voting records of McDaniel, but also the records of State Auditor Stacey Pickering (another potential contender for the U.S. Senate), his uncle former U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering, and state Representatives Gary Staples and Bobby Shows - Republicans all.

McDaniel's campaign called the use of a state employee on what appears to be an opposition research mission an "illegal" tactic. Hosemann claims the staffer was on a vacation, not on the taxpayer's clock, and so no rules or laws were broken.

McDaniel first told the Clarion Ledger he "absolutely" voted in the Republican Primary in 2003 and, "I have never voted in a Democratic Primary." Later, he wasn't so strident with the Laurel Leader Call, "Back then, almost all local races here were decided in the Democratic Primary. To participate in the process, you had to cross over if you wanted to vote for sheriff, superintendent, supervisor, district attorney....It doesn't mean you're not a Republican."

In 2003, except for the statewide and district wide candidates, of which there were many, the only local Republican Primary race on the ballot in McDaniel's home precinct was that of Senate District 42 in which Stacey Pickering was in a three-way race.

Notably, that is the seat McDaniel would run for as a Republican four years later. Countywide races were largely contested in the Democratic Primary.

McDaniel's campaign is handling the voting record issue better than the 2008 David Landrum for Congress campaign in which questions over Landrum's records tanked his ambitions. Unlike Landrum, McDaniel quit talking about it, and also unlike Landrum, the original paper records have been destroyed.

But the back and forth between McDaniel and Hosemann offers a preview of what will surely be a bitter primary if Cochran does not seek re-election.

Cochran, Hosemann, nor anyone else is in the Republican Primary, yet. McDaniel is the sole candidate and despite pledging in his announcement speech, "This is not a race or a campaign or even a movement that will be controlled by Washington insiders," he has benefited from over half-a-million dollars in political television and radio advertising by PACs and SuperPACs from Washington DC (and its northern Virginia suburbs), including Club for Growth Action, Madison Project, Senate Conservatives Action and Senate Conservatives Fund.

The new PPP (a Democratic firm) poll released has McDaniel trailing Cochran by six points and leading Hosemann by two points. That isn't bad for McDaniel, but on the other hand, it isn't that good when your campaign allies spend $500,000 to essentially have you tied for second place in a one man race.

Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.