Sen. Lindsey Graham is being targeted by an ad blitz from an anti-immigration group upset with his position on the issue and could face a primary challenge as he prepares his re-election bid next year for a third term.
According to the Wall Street Journal
, the South Carolina Republican, whose outspokenness as a leading voice on immigration reform has made him a lightning rod for conservative criticism, will have his support for providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants challenged by Numbers USA, a group dedicated to reducing immigration.
The group plans to launch an anti-Graham campaign next week across the state, considered one of the most conservative in the country where residents are generally against any immigration policies that even hint at giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.
The group is prepared to spend several hundred thousand dollars on radio and television ads, the Journal noted.
According to the Journal, Graham, one of eight senators working on a bipartisan agreement on immigration reforms, is being challenged from within his own party on the issue almost everywhere he goes. What draws the most criticism is a proposal that would allow some 11 million illegal immigrants now in the United States to stay.
At a recent appearance in Gaffney, S.C., Graham encountered some of that opposition.
"Send them home," 70-year-old Rae Gilmore shouted as Graham spoke, according to the Post. Later, she said she wants to see someone take on Graham in the 2014 election.
"I'm sorry, why should these people, because they're Hispanics, be given special privileges?" she told the Post. "If you do something illegal, you go to jail."
Numbers USA is hoping to reach thousands of South Carolinians just like Gilmore with their ad campaign. Numbers founder Roy Beck, told the Post he hopes to persuade Graham to change his mind on immigration or make his re-election effort as tough as possible.
"All of this makes Graham very vulnerable with South Carolina voters," Beck said.
Graham's problem back home is pretty much the same one faced by Republicans nationwide, many of whom are trying to take a more tolerant position on immigration than they may have in the past in an effort to draw more support from the nation's growing Hispanic population.
To help his own cause, he's gotten tougher on the administration on everything from the upcoming budget sequester to his insistence that the administration is hiding something about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last year that killed four Americans. His voting record in the Senate also reflects a much more conservative leaning than it did just a year ago, according to a new study release by the National Journal.
He could also benefit from former South Carolina GOP Sen. Jim DeMint's decision to leave Congress last year to take over the helm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The Post noted that with that seat open next year, some of Graham's opponents may be too focused on targeting that race to bother much with the state's senior senator.
But tea party conservatives may have a different outlook. Though no candidate has emerged to officially challenge Graham yet, tea party members have promised a primary challenge.
Dan Cassidy, a political consultant from Taylors, S.C., told the Post that people feel betrayed by Graham, not just on immigration but other issues as well.
"We thought when we sent him from the House to the Senate that we were electing a real conservative, and he's proved to be anything but," said Cassidy.
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