During a breakfast with reporters last month, Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, told reporters that his influential organization, which frequently targets fiscally irresponsible Republicans in primaries, may make a run at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) when he comes up for re-election in 2014.
Graham, who frequently pushes a neo-conservative foreign policy and is working to keep defense spending from ever being cut, came right back at the Club for Growth by reiterating his support for many of the bad, big government economic policies that fiscal conservatives so vocally oppose.
As if it weren’t evident enough why the Club for Growth may target him, Jim Antle explains exactly why Graham has earned the ire of grassroots groups and fiscal conservatives:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who holds the seat that belonged for nearly fifty years to Strom Thurmond, is on the warpath this campaign season—against his own party.
Graham took exception to ads being run against Democratic senators who voted to continue foreign aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan. American embassies were attacked in the first two countries; someone who helped U.S. authorities find Osama bin Laden has been detained in the third.
The commercials in question were paid for by the political action committee of Graham’s Republican colleague, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul was weighing in on behalf of struggling GOP challengers in battleground states that are still in play in the presidential election.
Graham, by contrast, held a conference call with West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to tout bipartisan support for foreign aid. “Foreign relations are not a Democrat or Republican issue, but an American issue,” he insisted.
Replies Rand Paul: “I don’t see myself campaigning against a Republican in a general election ever, that’s why I think it’s extraordinary that Graham is supporting a Democrat in a general election.”
The battle lines are drawn. The Club for Growth’s president already hinted in September that Graham would be on the conservative pressure group’s target list. “If you are looking over the horizon of 2014,” he told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, “the sun may rise over South Carolina.” Tea Partiers are anxious to collect another Republican establishment scalp.”
Constitutionalists and libertarians have long objected to Graham’s voting record. The senator has been a reliable champion of wars of choice, amnesty for illegal immigrants, cap and trade, the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
So committed is Graham to preventing cuts in defense spending that he was willing to put tax revenues—and Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge—on the table to protect the Pentagon. He is always on the lookout for “isolationism” within the Republican Party, detecting this phenomenon might be at work even in the Romney campaign’s Afghanistan posturing.
A Public Policy Polling survey last year found that 42 percent of South Carolina Republicans—and 53 percent of state Republicans who consider themselves conservative—regard Graham as too liberal. Local Republicans have repeatedly adopted resolutions critical of some of their senator’s votes.
Graham, who Antle regards as a “natural fighter,” is going to be tough to bring down. He’ll no doubt be well-funded and will be just as fiery as Sen. Orrin Hatch, who survived a primary challenge earlier this year, against political opponents.
This will be one of those opportunities to make yet another statement, much like the Tea Party and other grassroots activists did with Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana and David Dewhurst in Texas. It’s not going to be easy and it will take a lot money, but kicking Graham out of the Senate should be a prospect that motivates activists. This guy isn’t our friend, by any stretch of the imagination.