Incumbent senator eclipses crowded field in S.C. Republican primary

CHARLESTON S.C. Fri Jun 6, 2014 11:09am EDT

Reporters talk to U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as he arrives for the weekly Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, November 19, 2013.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Reporters talk to U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as he arrives for the weekly Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, November 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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CHARLESTON S.C. (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina looks poised to be the latest member of the Republican establishment to fend off a primary challenge from the Tea Party, overcoming criticism from some members of his party that he is not conservative enough.

Graham's fundraising and poll numbers far outpace his six opponents' in Tuesday's primary election. Analysts say the state's senior senator will likely muster enough votes to win the nomination outright, as incumbents in Texas and Kentucky have.

Gunning to oust him are a small-business owner, a minister, two lawyers, a libertarian state senator who gave away a 9mm handgun at a campaign event and a business owner who was the first female graduate of the Citadel military college. 

But Graham, dogged for his support of immigration reform and willingness to work with Democrats, is a shrewd political veteran who had long planned for an expensive primary battle, supporters say. His $9.4 million war chest as of late May was more than three times all his challengers' money combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That has helped the senator, an outspoken foreign policy hawk seeking his third six-year term, distance himself from the Tea Party candidates battling for control of the Republican party in conservative South Carolina and other states.

"He’s really the only one able to spend and get his name out there statewide," said Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at the College of Charleston. "It’s an uphill battle for the challengers.”

The conservative Tea Party has suffered a string of high-profile primary losses this year but has a chance to unseat Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi in a Republican primary race headed for a June 24 run-off.

In South Carolina, a Clemson University poll released this week showed Graham near the 50 percent plus one vote he needs to avoid a run-off.

He drew support from 49 percent of frequent Republican primary voters, far more than the single-digit support given to his competitors. The poll found 35 percent of voters were undecided, with a 6 percent margin of error.

"The collective discontent with Lindsey Graham ... has not coalesced around any one candidate," Clemson political scientist Dave Woodard said in a webcast about the poll.

The winner of the Republican contest is expected to take the seat in November. South Carolina has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998.

In his final primary ads released on Thursday, Graham, 58, touted his record of opposing Obamacare, probing the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, and advocating for U.S. troops.

"My job is to ask tough questions, find answers and be that conservative leader you can count on to get things done," he said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Dan Grebler)

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Comments (4)
gilliardc wrote:
Lindsay Graham is as useless as they come in the Senate. What has he done for SC? Voted against Medicare expansion in a state that has a high level of uninsured people, supports abolishing the public education system in favor of a voucher system at charter schools, supports privatizing Social Security, voted to not provide funding to the VA to increase hiring of medical staff and facility expansion, and thinks that the Benghazi attack is the most important political story in the country and continues to demagogue it for political reasons.

Jun 06, 2014 12:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
astroz wrote:
Graham helped write and supported the disastrous S744 anything goes immigration bill, that if passed, basically provides unlimited paths to citizenship for countless millions of unknown law breakers, and leaves enforcement at the discretion of DHS (what a joke). He may be slick and powerful, but make no mistake, Graham is a traitor to the 9.8 million unemployed citizens of our land, tax payers, and to all Americans who fought and died to defend the whole concept of the rule of law and a democracy of the people. Platforms like are giving citizens a voice again to counterweight the anything goes immigration crowd and the Chamber of Commerce, and self serving politicians like Graham. Thousands of daily e-mails, faxes and phone calls are making a difference but citizens must not let up if our voices are to be heard too. If you’re not in the fight, then now is the time. Numbers is awesome. I keep the Capital Switchboard phone number (for any congressman or senator) and call several time a week (202 224-3121). Don’t just get mad….get into the fight and make a difference. Citizens are people too!

Jun 06, 2014 2:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
The fact that Graham could be elected by and alleged “Conservative” party just proves that most voters are low information voters and have bought the image of a product and not the product itself.

Can anyone think of anything that Graham as actually accomplished to advance the conservative agenda? HE can make all the claims he wants, but what has he actually done?

Take of example his claim to oppose Obamacare. The man votes for cloture (low information voters do not know what this is) which effectively ended Ted Cruz’s filibuster as the last chance to keep Obamacare from being implemented and then voted voted with Cruz to defund it. To the LIV it looks as though Graham is a champion of a conservative cause, but in reality the man only voted the way he did because he knew it would lose. This is his regular pattern. He is a man that likes losing so long as he keeps the money coming his way.

Jun 07, 2014 11:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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