South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tells Newsmax that when it comes to Gov. Nikki Haley naming a replacement for his fellow Palmetto State Sen. Jim DeMint, “I trust her judgment.”
Graham also asserts that the 2012 elections were a “demographic problem” for Republicans and not a rejection of conservatism.
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On Dec. 6, DeMint announced plans to resign from the Senate in early January 2013 to become president of The Heritage Foundation, and Gov. Haley will name a replacement to serve at least until the 2014 election.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Graham was asked who would be the best replacement for DeMint.
“I’m going to stand by Gov. Haley because it’s her constitutional prerogative and I trust her judgment,” he responds.
“A guy like [U.S. Rep.] Tim Scott is just a great conservative that would be transformational, but you’ve got a lot of people to choose from. The list that I’ve seen published, I’m fine with anybody she chooses.
He was also asked if that includes Jenny Sanford, ex-wife of former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. The couple became estranged in 2009 after the then-governor disappeared from the state to visit his girlfriend in Argentina, and they are now divorced.
“I know Jenny well. She’s a very talented lady. Again, it’s the governor’s decision. And my job is to work with the new person,” Graham says.
“The next two years are going to be incredibly important, and losing Jim DeMint is no small thing. Jim and I have been friends for 20 years. I’ve seen Jim evolve from sort of a Chamber of Commerce solid citizen member of Congress to really become an activist. And what explains the transformation? Jim believes that we’re going to lose our way of life and the American Dream if we don’t get our fiscal house in order.
“What Jim was able to do over the last four years was create an energy for a limited government. The tea party movement. Getting people like Marco Rubio to run has been a very impressive contribution to the conservative cause and he will be missed.
“He will do a great job for Heritage. But from the conservative movement’s point of view, we have a chance in the 21st century to grow this party. We should be a peace-through-strength, Ronald Reagan party. We should say that the federal budget’s number one priority is national defense. If you don’t get that right, nothing else matters.
“We should deal with immigration in a realistic, conservative fashion so we can reunite ourselves with a Hispanic population that is inclined to follow our policy proposals on pro-life initiatives, fiscal conservatism and entrepreneurial economics. The 2012 election is not a rejection of conservatism. The 2012 election is a demographic problem that came back to haunt us and can be easily corrected without abandoning conservatism.”
As for the effect DeMint’s resignation might have on Graham’s re-election chances, he says: “I really don’t know. I’m doing okay at home. Polls come and go. The best thing I can do is be Lindsey, a social and fiscal conservative who understands that we’ve got to move the country forward. And like Ronald Reagan, if I get 80 percent of what I want, that’s a pretty good initiative.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’m a conservative that wants to solve problems but I’m also proud of the fact that I can throw a punch. Harry Reid is about to change the rules [on filibusters]. That would be devastating to the United States Senate. Remember when Bush’s judges were being filibustered routinely and we were talking about changing the rules?
“I was in the gang of 14 saying wait a minute, let’s give these folks an up or down vote, only filibuster in extraordinary circumstance. We got a leader in Roberts and a bunch of judges through but we didn’t change the rules.
“And the reason I didn’t want to change the rules is I could envision a day where we would want that power if we were in the minority. Harry Reid got on the floor of the Senate when we were trying to change the rules and talked about it destroying the Senate democracy. The hypocrisy coming from the Democrats on this issue is stunning.”
Read the exclusive Newsmax interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham:
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