A conservative South Carolina group, the nonprofit Carolina Conservatives United, launched a grassroots campaign last week that aims to knock off Graham in the 2014 GOP primary and replace him with a more conservative alternative.
Richard Cash, a businessman and former South Carolina congressional candidate, announced his candidacy earlier this year, while state Sen. Lee Bright and Nancy Mace, a public relations executive who is also the first female graduate of The Citadel, are circling their tea party wagons around the seat as well.
Detractors say Graham's pseudo-maverick ways make him an unpredictable fit for the consistently conservative values of South Carolina, and we agree in the sense that he is sometimes hard to figure out.
There have been times lately where he sounds more and more like a tough-minded voice of reason -- such as his harangues about Benghazi or, most recently, rallying for the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act to prohibit the federal government from bailing out municipalities that are facing bankruptcy, like Detroit. With Benghazi, he has repeatedly said someone should be held accountable to shore embassy security overseas. In regards to Detroit, he does not think the broke should be bailing out the broke. Those sound like well-reasoned arguments to us.
Critics will point to his tendency to break party ranks, claiming he's quick to cut backroom deals, but it's often a side effect of the political game. He and Sen. John McCain brokered a deal recently with Democrats over the confirmation of President Barack Obama's appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB accused Boeing of breaking federal labor law by locating its new plant in North Charleston instead of the Northwest, i.e. Washington state, home of Boeing's other large Dreamliner manufacturing plant. The NLRB later dropped the allegations.
Opponents will be apt to seize upon Graham's touting of the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a pathway, albeit a very difficult one, to citizenship for most illegal immigrants, but we're more concerned with his continued support of the National Security Agency's collection of cell phone and other types of correspondence records. The metadata program faced serious heat in the House last week, which is a good sign opponents of NSA may be able to poke holes in the national security consensus sooner rather than later. We questioned Graham's enthusiastic embrace of infringement on basic liberty and think future GOP challengers should as well.
But toppling Graham is going to be difficult mountain for any Republican foe to overcome. Graham's election war chest stood at $6.3 million at the end of June, and poll numbers show, while his support is slipping amongst Republicans in the state, he is still on solid footing.
He's out to a solid start, but GOP opponents are gathering steam.
Unsigned editorials represent the views of this newspaper. Editorial board members are: Mark Blum (regional publisher), Kimberly Ginfrida (online editor), Rebecca Ducker (visuals editor), Matt Tate (news editor) and David Johnson (regional circulation director).
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