Rob Maness worked the crowd last Saturday at the Crowley International Rice Festival.
"The doctor's a nice guy," he told one group, referring to Republican frontrunner Bill Cassidy. "But we've go to have a warrior up there that's really gonna fight."
Over a 32-year career in the air force, Maness rose from the lowest enlisted rank to full colonel.
In a recent interview, he talked of a different mission, "to go up to Washington and try to fix it and insiders can't do that."
Through 19 months of campaigning, from town halls in all 64 Louisiana Parishes, to glad-handing on the street, Maness has emphasized campaign themes: strong borders, free enterprise, less regulation and anti-Washington.
"They think the bureaucrats know best how to produce energy and transport fuel safely than in places like Houma," he told a crowd at a Tea Party Express event in May. "Who do they think they are?"
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin campaigned for him twice.
"Rob Maness is not beholden to any political machine," Palin said. "He is beholden to we the people."
In the fight for Louisiana's U.S. Senate seat, the colonel is out-gunned, facing well-financed opponents spending millions of dollars.
"I'm inspired to keep going by the voters who support me," Maness said. "They're the ones who put the energy into this campaign."
Maness rejects arguments from critics of the tea party movement, who believe it has driven U.S. House conservatives further to the right and made compromise impossible.
"I think the gridlock in Washington is caused by the two political parties and the hyper-partisans that are in those parties that follow their leadership blindly," Maness said.
He cites his support for the so-called "REDEEM Act," championed by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker.
The proposal aims to keep children out of the adult criminal justice system and expunge or seal the records of juveniles who committed non-violent crimes.
"We have three times the unemployment in our young African-American population in this state than anybody else," Maness said, "and we have twice the unemployment in our post-911 combat veterans than anywhere else and we need jobs."
The FOX 8 News Raycom Media poll conducted by Multi-Quest, Int'l. last week put Maness at 8% of the vote among those professing to be most interested in the race. However, Maness insists his window to make a move is not closing.
"That's what our message is, is a message of liberty, prosperity and certainty," Maness said, "to give voters somebody to vote for instead of somebody to vote against."