When Sen. Lindsey Graham learned that the Tea Party planned to challenge his re-election bid this year, the South Carolina Republican set about outmaneuvering them, reports Politico.
The political veteran, who seldom has faced Republican opposition during two decades in Congress, prepped for what an aide called “Armageddon.” Graham enlisted an army of staff and volunteers — including some 5,200 precinct captains, amassed an $11.6 million war chest and blanketed the state with more than $1 million worth of ads promoting his work.
Graham also deterred the Tea Party’s favorite, conservative Rep. Mick Mulvaney, from running against him by demonstrating his power with the GOP leadership.
When Mulvaney wanted a seat on the House Financial Services Committee, Graham put in a word with his longtime friend, Speaker John Boehner, “to make it happen.” He also let Mulvaney and other potential rivals know that he had the means to help with their districts’ needs.
Mulvaney eventually decided not to take him on. “Not being able to win is a really good reason not to run,” he explained.
Politico says Graham also has brokered a deal with the state’s Tea Party-backed junior Sen. Tim Scott, who won’t risk annoying his supporters by endorsing Graham, but has agreed not to criticize him. “I have a primary — that’s where my focus is,” Scott said.
At the local level, Graham is offering his advice and money to inexperienced candidates.
Over the past twelve years, he has donated more than $150,000 to the South Carolina Republican Party through his campaign and political action committee. He says his approach is modelled after his predecessor, he late Sen. Strom Thurmond.
“How did he go to being the Dixiecrat candidate to winning an election where he got more African-American votes than anybody in the South?” Graham said. “I think the average person thought if he could help you, he would.”
Graham’s periodic defections from the conservative line have continued to land him in hot water. He supported President Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees and has been willing to cut deals with Democrats.
The Huffington Post reported
that Tea Party activists called for his “removal from office” when he voted last year for immigration reform.
But thanks to his “deft maneuvering,” he is the dominant political figure in the deeply red state and is assured six more years, predicts Politico.
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