Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Mark Sanford was headed to defeat in South Carolina’s First Congressional District. He had made a notable misstep, which caused the National Republican Campaign Committee to pull resources from the race. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and FreedomWorks, a grassroots-driven organization, stepped into fill the void, with the former providing vocal support and the latter activists to educate voters in the district.
Sanford wound up defeating his Democratic opponent by a healthy margin, providing Paul, who is thought to be candidate for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, and FreedomWorks with notch on their belt against the Republican political establishment.
Fresh off this victory, FreedomWorks has now set its sights on another South Carolina race that could shake-up the Republican Party.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has long been a thorn in the side of fiscal conservatives. He was once thought to be untouchable, but recent polls have showed his numbers falling among Republicans.
Graham, who has been in Washington since 1995 (including eight years in the House), has pushed for higher taxes, refused to cut spending by even one-half of 1%, voted for big government programs like No Child Left Behind and the Wall Street bailout. More recently, he lashed out Paul and other Senators who took part in a 13-hour filibuster in support of constitutional restraints on government.
Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, has had enough of Graham, noting that the out-of-touch Senator is “begging for a primary challenge”:
FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe has a warning for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other GOP incumbents up for reelection in the 2014: don’t expect Tea Party support just because you’re already in Congress.
“It’s utterly contrary to Republican philosophy, we believe in competition, we believe in open democratic processes and I think that leads to better candidates,” Kibbe tells Top Line.
Kibbe singles Graham out as one of his Super PAC’s major targets in the midterm elections, citing Graham’s criticism of the filibuster over the Obama administration’s drone program led by Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) as a major reason for replacing him.
“The way he lashed out against Rand Paul…he’s begging for a primary,” says Kibbe, who continues on to say that he hopes to replace Graham with someone “who is worthy of that seat.”
FreedomWorks isn’t the only group looking at Graham for a potential primary challenge. The Club for Growth, another influential free market group, has also expressed interest in his seat.
There are a few candidates who have jumped in the race, but there is a lack of a top-tier challenger. But that’s not going to be a deterent to these two organizations as they have a history of turning candidates viewed as having little chance to defeat establishment candidates into United States Senators. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz, who are now providing real leadership in the Senate, as examples.