Is there a more bizarre campaign in America than the Mississippi Senate race?

Long time incumbent Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and tea party challenger Chris McDaniel.

Is there a more bizarre campaign in the country than the contest for Mississippi’s Republican senatorial nomination?

The race between six-term Sen. Thad Cochran and conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel likely represents the Tea Party’s best chance for taking out an incumbent Republican this year. But a strange episode in which a blogger snuck into a nursing home to record a video of Cochran’s wife—bedridden with dementia—has recently dominated the headlines.

Four people now face charges as a result of the incident, three of them in custody. (The fourth person remained free due to a medical condition.) The footage was obtained for an apparent hit piece against the senator.

Now the charges and countercharges are flying. Republicans friendly to Cochran have been attempting to tie the suspects to McDaniel, pointing out Tea Party affiliations and various other connections to the candidate. They have also noted alleged inconsistencies in the McDaniel campaign’s response to the video.

McDaniel has adamantly denied any involvement. “As we have said since day one, the violation of the privacy of Mrs. Cochran is out of bounds for politics and is reprehensible,” McDaniel said in a statement about the arrests the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. “Any individuals who were involved in this crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Team McDaniel argues the Cochran campaign and its supporters in the Republican establishment have been quick to take advantage of the controversy for political gain.  Two recent polls, both commissioned by conservative groups, find McDaniel narrowly ahead of the incumbent.

“Over the past several weeks, your campaign has resorted to shameful slander, even going so far as to call me a ‘criminal’ without a shred of evidence to back up these accusations,” McDaniel wrote in an open letter to Cochran. “No doubt, many political campaigns resort to juvenile behavior when they are down in the polls, but this kind of slander goes beyond childish pranks.”

Some local Tea Party groups go a step further. “By now, it is quite clear the establishment will stop at nothing to purge their party of good conservatives,” says a Central Mississippi Tea Party statement. “They will shop for a favorable District Attorney who will bring their charges, and they will send police to arrest innocent men and charge them with crimes in the midst of a primary campaign.”

Laura Van Overschelde of the Mississippi Tea Party emailed, “The Cochran campaign’s despicable tactics during the last few weeks are clearly intended to hide Sen. Cochran’s jet setting lifestyle and living situation with his executive assistant Ms. Webber.” That would be Kay Webber, the executive assistant with whom Cochran shared an address and over thirty taxpayer-funded trips overseas.

Cochran critics have suggested something more is going on between them, which is perhaps the storyline those who videotaped the senator’s poor wife hoped to push.

The facts behind all these contentions remain unknown, at least to this writer. But here’s what we do know.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been quick to fan the flames of this story, eagerly pointing out inconsistencies in the McDaniel campaign’s timeline and otherwise raising question that the challenger was somehow involved.

Needless to say, if McDaniel wins the nomination, that means an official party organ will have played a role in damaging him ahead of the general election. If McDaniel knew more than he is admitting, that won’t matter, as it will be the least of his problems. But what if he didn’t?

While the people involved in the strange wife-videoing scheme all seem to be McDaniel supporters, the main thing triggering such speculation is that McDaniel himself pleaded ignorance about the details to the Hill even after his campaign had reached out to Cochran to express its disapproval.

Then there is the matter of some Tea Partiers going a step beyond saying that Cochran is unfairly tying McDaniel to the incident to seeming to defend the arrested parties. At least that’s the most reasonable interpretation of the charge that Cochran wants to “send police to arrest innocent men.”

So in the end, the strange story surrounding the June 3 Mississippi primary sounds all too familiar. GOP committees interfering in primaries and undermining Republican candidates; Tea Party candidates committing unforced errors; overzealous conservatives doing their candidates and causes more harm than good.

In other words, the types of problems that keep constitutional conservatives from taking their party back.