Conservatives Backing Nominee Look at Graham

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) is being lobbied by conservatives to allow a vote on appellate court nominee William James Haynes.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) is being lobbied by conservatives to allow a vote on appellate court nominee William James Haynes. (By Greg Campbell -- Associated Press)
By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, June 4, 2006

No longer content with bashing Democrats for their obstruction of President Bush's judicial nominees, a coalition of conservative groups is now turning its attention to a prominent Republican -- Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).

The campaign, led by the Committee for Justice, is aimed at persuading Graham to allow a vote on William James Haynes II, the general counsel at the Department of Defense and a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Although the campaign is in its infancy, organizers expect it to develop into a national e-mail and telephone lobbying effort.

"A key reason why Lindsey Graham is Senator Graham is because he ran as opposed to the obstruction of the president's judicial nominees," said Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice. "We hope he'll remember that."

Graham insists he has engaged in no formal obstruction of Haynes, nor has he enlisted other senators to do so. Along with colleague and political ally John McCain (R-Ariz.), Graham has expressed concern regarding the advice Haynes provided the Bush administration on the treatment of detainees captured in the war on terrorism. "The role Mr. Haynes played as DOD general counsel formulating these policies and whether he was receptive to legal advice from the military will be a line of inquiry when his nomination is brought up," said Kevin D. Bishop, communications director for Graham.

Haynes was nominated in 2003.

Opposing conservatives on one of their pet issues carries political risks for both Graham and McCain. Since winning the seat vacated by the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R) in 2002, Graham has faced occasional opposition from his party's base, a resistance that hardened when he joined a bipartisan group of senators -- the "Gang of 14" -- to defuse a showdown on judicial nominees.

Charleston developer Thomas Ravenel, who narrowly lost a bid for the GOP Senate nomination in 2004, has encouraged speculation that he might mount a primary challenge to Graham in 2008 but is seeking state office in 2006.

McCain, who has made clear his intentions to run for president in 2008, has openly courted conservatives over the past year in an attempt to heal rifts caused by his primary challenge to George W. Bush in 2000. That effort has met with considerable success to date, progress that could be jeopardized by another high-profile battle over judicial nominations.

GOP Ticket Ripped in Half

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Pence (R) broke with tradition last week by announcing he would not run for reelection and refusing to endorse embattled Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) for a second term.

Pence said he had "no plans" to challenge his former ticket mate in a primary, but refused to close the door on such a bid.

Pence's decision caps a difficult month for Fletcher, who was indicted on May 11 on three misdemeanor charges of public corruption. Fletcher has denied wrongdoing and sought to cast the indictment as a partisan exercise by state Attorney General Gregory D. Stumbo (D).

While Fletcher insists he will seek another term in 2007, Pence's departure from the ticket creates a variety of hurdles for the incumbent.

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