Is Graham helping or hurting himself for 2014?

Of course, that depends on which of his many actions you choose to focus on. As I noted in my last post, our senior senator went back and forth between hugging and slapping Barack Obama yesterday.

National Journal asserted yesterday that “Lindsey Graham Isn’t Acting Like a Worried Man,” citing “demographics and a tea-party fade:”

At the height of tea-party fever in spring 2010, Sen. Lindsey Graham walked out of talks on a bipartisan climate-change bill, saying he was angry about Democratic plans to move first on comprehensive immigration reform. It almost seemed like he was anticipating a hypothetical, hyperconservative primary challenger more than four years before his reelection race.

But now the South Carolina Republican is in the thick of bipartisan talks on immigration reforms that include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants; making overtures on a fiscal “grand bargain” that would include higher taxes along with entitlement trims; and praising President Obama for reaching out to him and others in his party. On Wednesday, Graham held a press conference to announce a bipartisan bill to strengthen mental-health provisions in gun background checks. He also attended Obama’s dinner party with Republicans at a Washington hotel. In fact, Graham drew up the guest list…

In 2010, Graham’s pal John McCain tacked hard right to fend off a tea-party challenger in Arizona. In 2012, Orrin Hatch did the same to survive in Utah. Graham could eventually back away from some of his bipartisan projects, and some skeptical Democrats expect he will. But for now he is gambling that changing times and his own political skills will keep him safe in 2014. And for now he is in a commanding position in his party. Among self-identified Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in a Winthrop University poll last month, he was at 71.6 percent approval.

Not surprisingly, no strong primary challenger to Graham has emerged. The antitax Club for Growth is keeping an eye on the race and will consider getting involved if a viable candidate surfaces, says spokesman Barney Keller. Graham scored 72 percent in the Club’s 2011 report card, close to what the group considers a “bottom-of-the-barrel” Republican. But he did better in 2012 and “obviously you can’t beat someone with no one,” Keller says. GOP consultants in the state predict Graham will have an opponent, but probably a weak one.

That reckoned, however, without the reaction to Graham and John McCain criticizing Rand Paul’s filibuster, which Politico says led to “Lindsey Graham’s very bad day on Twitter:”

Laced throughout the thousands of tweets cheering on the filbustering Kentucky Republican was a vicious, visceral anger aimed squarely at the South Carolinian up for reelection next year.

The rallying cry hashtag: #PrimaryGraham.

Of course, a couple of things stand in the way of Graham being in serious trouble: First, there’s the lack of an opponent, since Tom Davis said he wouldn’t run. Then, there’s that $6 million Lindsey’s sitting on. Politico quoted Wesley Donehue about that:

One name that surfaces regularly as a likely primary challenger is state Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg. His name was floated again by callers on Glenn Beck’s radio show Thursday, and although he’s undeclared, sources say he already has a campaign manager in place.

What may be holding him back is money. Graham has a war chest in excess of $6 million, which South Carolina-based GOP digital strategist Wesley Donehue said “goes a long way in our cheap media markets.” Donehue doubts the anti-Graham flare-up over Paul’s filibuster will last long because “there is no one for the pissed-off Internet crowd to give money to.”

Lee Bright? Really?

6 thoughts on “Is Graham helping or hurting himself for 2014?

  1. Silence

    Short of being caught with a dead girl or a live boy, I don’t think Lindsey Graham has anything to worry about. We don’t much go for changing politicians in South Carolina, and then there’s the warchest you mention, so I think he’s safe.

    1. Doug Ross

      Unfortunately, Silence, only one of your hypotheticals is even possible.

      $6 million dollars buys you a lot these days. Why WOULD an incumbent in such a safe position need that much money? Lindsey’s turned his office into quite the lucrative career.

        1. Silence

          Brad, That’s a good guess:
          Both Steve Austin and Lindsey Graham held the rank of Colonel in the Air Force.
          Both had parents who died when they were still quite young.
          Both are cyborgs.

  2. Phillip

    I’d wager that most of the Tea Partiers and pure (read: ideologically consistent) libertarians who took offense at Graham’s criticisms of the Rand Paul filibuster were from outside this state. Graham knows that the defense industry and the military “industry” carry enormous weight in this state, so at worst his position (that is to say, anything that is in favor of the US maintaining permanent war footing) is a wash in terms of SC politics, and probably a net gain.

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