Saturday, September 27, 2014

Race of the Day- South Carolina U.S. Senate A

38 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

So much has changed in the political perception of Lindsey Graham, as he approaches 20 years in Washington D.C. First elected as part of the House GOP Class of 1994, he was considered a young firebrand who tried to lead a revolt to have Newt Gingrich removed as Speaker because he was too accommodating. Now, as he reaches the end of a second term in the U.S. Senate, he is seen by many on the right, as both John McCain's loyal sidekick and an insufficiently conservative deal maker.

There are some reasons why I probably should consider Graham to be among my favorite U.S. Senators. I agree with him on most domestic and international issues, but the ire he has drawn from those near the extremes of both the left and the right indicate that he must be doing something right. The right mocks him for among other things, his longstanding position on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform and refer to him as "Lindsey Grahamnesty", while the left snarkily mocks the unmarried Senator's masculinity while also claiming that the still active Air Force Colonel (where he has mostly worked as a lawyer) is a "warmonger." Both sides seem to take particular issue with Graham's strong personal and political friendship with McCain.

Had the Arizona Senator won the White House in 2008, Graham probably would have left the Senate along with him to serve in some capacity in the Administration. Instead, the Senior Senator from South Carolina continues to gain seniority, in a state where Senators have been known to serve for decades. This year, he is seeking a third six year term, in one of two states where both Senate seats will be up for election. The Palmetto State is so heavily Republican these days, that Democrats really have no chance of capturing a Senate seat, barring extraordinary circumstances, but many in the Tea Party thought that Graham could be thrown out of office via the primary process. Such a result might have possibly produced a different nominee who might have had a more difficult time in a general election.

 A slew of Republican primary challengers lined up to run against Graham, and the fact that there were so many of them, all running individual campaigns, instead of a more coordinated effort might have been the best news for Graham. The Senator however also worked very hard at home to reach out to those who might help him win renomination in a competitive race, and to stress his conservative bona fides and effectiveness for his state.. For months though, it looked very possible that Graham would be held under 50 percent in the June primary and forced into a later runoff. While polls showed that Graham would lead any runoff matchup, the possibility existed that a low-turnout event dominated by conservative activists could be problematic. Nonetheless, considering all the energy put into opposing him on the right, Graham won the primary with an impressive 56 percent of the vote, eliminating any need for a runoff. State Senator Lee Bright was the closest Republican competitor, albeit at over 40 points behind the winner. Five other Republicans failed to break single digits.

In the meantime, Democrats, considering their previous Alvin Greene debacle in the state, were somewhat relieved when State Senator Brad Hutto entered the race. He was formally endorsed by the party and easily defeated Jay Stamper, a wealthy businessman with a checkered past, who moved all the way down to South Carolina from his home in Washington state for the sole purpose of running for the Senate.

While Hutto and the campaign he is running seems to be too far to the left to have much of a chance of victory in South Carolina, like the state's Gubernatorial race, a wildcard has also entered the fray. Qualifying for the ballot is Independent Thomas Ravenel, who certainly has his own colorful background. The wealthy son of a former Congressman, Ravenel attempted a run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, but achieved statewide political victory in 2006 being elected State Treasurer as a Republican. Considered a rising star in the party, he was leading Rudy Giuliani's Presidential efforts in the state, before he was convicted of cocaine trafficking charges from not long before he was elected Treasurer. Forced out of office, rehab and prison (along with a more recent DUI charge) followed for Ravenel and then he somehow found himself back in Charleston, South Carolina starring on one of those trashy reality shows on Bravo.

The new star of "Southern Charm" said he would leave his television gig and run as an Independent against Lindsey Graham, if the incumbent prevailed in the primary. That is exactly what has happened, and the controversial Ravenel is running as a Ron Paul-like libertarian Republican (which is sort of ironic for a former Rudy guy) on foreign policy intervention who also says that Graham is too liberal on fiscal matters and too conservative on social issues.

An official Libertarian candidate is also on the ballot and these other options will probably take votes away from Graham in November. Thus far though, there seems to be little evidence to suggest that Graham is at risk of falling behind Hutto. While it remains possible that Graham may be close to 50 percent of the vote in November, due to all the Republicans who take issue with him, he should still win with votes to spare.

Senator Graham's national profile and frequent appearances on cable television news programs are likely to continue, especially in regards to foreign policy and his strong views on behalf of U.S. intervention against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Most Americans, especially in military heavy South Carolina probably agree with him, but those views will continue to make Graham a lightning rod to many across the country on the anti-war left as well as those who exist on the isolationist right.

Graham campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far: 12 D (7 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup), 17 R (7 Safe, 3 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
Overall predicted thus far: 46 D, 47 R (net Republican gain of 6)


At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

Graham will need to get MARRIED soon.


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