The latest sport in the South Carolina Political Olympics is “Beat Lindsey Graham.” The state’s senior senator has infuriated those east of the political demarcation line on a number of hot-button issues. However, as previously noted in this space, “Lindsey Graham has not accurately represented his constituency in a number of very important senate votes. But his voting record is far more questionable than are his chances of re-election.” Nonetheless, a new challenger has entered the arena to take down the champ.
Attorney Bill Connor, former candidate for Lt. Governor and state GOP Chair, has now joined the Tea Party assault on Graham.
Graham is a news media darling, particularly on the right-leaning Fox News, the network of choice for thousands of South Carolina voters. This means his challengers are not only bumping heads with an incumbent, but one with considerable media presence. So, how have their campaigns stepped up?
Interestingly, the websites of Bill Connor and Lee Bright are eerily similar in format. Both also have videos, though Connor’s has somewhat better production values. The Richard Cash and Nancy Mace sites are also very much alike and, although Cash has a video, Mace does not. The Cash video is … strange. The six and a half minute mini-movie is mostly a documentary about his failed campaign for Congress four years ago.
Bright and Connor are the only candidates of the four to actually go after Lindsey Graham. They use archived footage in an attempt to hoist the senator on his own rhetorical petard, actually challenging him and his record.
The four-corner offense being used against Lindsey Graham is intended to force the race into a two-person runoff between the senator and whomever else is left standing. The belief by Tea Party strategists is that they can consolidate their energized voting base and take Graham down in a runoff when only the more motivated vote.
It’s actually a good plan, but to make it work, the right challengers have to be involved and voters have to actually vote. Many are convinced that Mitt Romney lost the presidency because Tea Party voters pouted and took their vote and went home instead of voting for someone who didn’t check every box on their list of demands. That bratty attitude has given us another four years of Barack Obama.
The 2012 presidential election, in addition to showing the Tea Party loyalists as being petulant children, also proved that these choleric fundamentalists have real power. These voters cannot be ignored, but they are their own worst enemy. Fox News Commentator Bill O’Reilly said on The Tonight Show last week that the Tea Party needs to know how to persuade rather than just bluster. In politics, it can’t be “my way or the highway,” yet that is the approach taken by the Tea Party and their Libertarian cousins.
Since there is no “left” in South Carolina, any successful challenge to Lindsey Graham will have to come from the right. There is no left, but there is a middle and it’s growing. Taking shots from three point range won’t win games. You’ve got to crash the boards from the middle. So far, the Tea Party doesn’t have the gumption to take the game beyond it’s comfort zone.