Conservative pundits declare, as if it were fact, that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is “vulnerable.” They say that because none of the people they talk to like Graham. From a self-selected set of like-minded folks a preference becomes a fact. Such is the state of right-wing media these days.
In fact, it’s not clear Graham has much to worry about. An April poll earlier this year put his favorability at nearly 60 percent among Republicans and GOP-inclined independents. Although that is down from an astronomical 72 percent earlier in the year, he is nowhere near the danger zone (generally under 50 percent) for an incumbent. In fact, he’s a lot more popular back home than he is in the conservative blogosphere.
Brian Hicks, a columnist with the Post and Courier, tells Graham’s constituents:
Clearly, the tea partiers can read polls. They should look at the ones that show they are in the clear minority. Most people don’t believe in their brand of extremism. They know that politics is the art of compromise. At least it used to be, back in the days of Reagan.That’s why this idea of a Senate filled with Lees, Cruzes and Pauls is a pipe dream. And the goal of defeating Graham is, at best, about as likely as defunding Obamacare.
You wouldn’t know it from the national media, but immigration reform is popular in South Carolina. In the conservative state, a June poll showed 70 percent approve “an immigration reform plan that ensures undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. pay a penalty, learn English, pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, and wait a minimum of thirteen years before they can be eligible for citizenship.” That’s all voters, not just Republicans or primary voters, but it’s one sign that the furor over immigration reform swirling around right-wing groups based in D.C. isn’t driving the political debate outside the Beltway.
This is not to say Graham won’t face a challenge. Richard Cash, a Jim DeMint fan and businessman, is more formidable than past challengers. But this doesn’t make Graham a dead duck or even all that “vulnerable.”
Graham-haters are right that the tea party has intensity behind the effort to oust the incumbent senator. What his opponents haven’t yet demonstrated is that they have the numbers. Graham is well financed, with more than $6 million in the bank. His greatest foe would be complacency and a low turnout that would tip the primary electorate toward the most conservative voters.
From time to time, Graham infuriates conservatives on judicial confirmations, immigration or tactics (like the vast majority of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, he opposes a government shutdown scheme to “defund” Obamacare). Like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) he could well lose a vote of D.C. conservative pundits; but most of them don’t vote in Kentucky or South Carolina, or even know much about those states’ politics.
If you want to know how vulnerable Graham is, it is best to watch South Carolina polls and local coverage. He might get a scare, but, so far, he doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about.