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The past month has been very interesting if you are a follower of electoral politics.
There has been the increasing drama over the Kentucky Senate race, the run-up to the New Jersey Democratic Senate primary, the news of Brian Schweitzer not entering the Montana race as well as the news of Michelle Nunn entering the Georgia race.
Really, a lot has happened and you shouldn’t be surprised. Believe it or not, we are entering the end of summer and fall is just around the corner. While the general election is still sixteen months away, we are probably only a mere handful of months away from primary season. Its not exactly time to start panicking if a preferred candidate hasn’t yet entered a race, but you really should start hoping for some announcements soon.
Nonetheless in all the uproar, there has been some news that has kind of slipped under the radar.
Lindsey Graham is probably one of the most well-known Senators currently serving and he’s well-known for the simple fact that it appears both sides of the aisle equally despise him. Graham is no friends to progressives nor conservatives and it appears he’s kind of in the realm that John McCain, Lamar Alexander and Joe Lieberman are in.
Its been no secret that some on the right want to launch a primary challenge to Lindsey Graham and the Club for Growth has already floated that desire. South Carolina is a fairly red state so there are plenty of conservatives who are serving in Congress or in the state that would clearly have the credentials to get some Tea Party support.
The main problem for these conservative groups is that Graham has solid support in the state, has seniority, can easily fundraise and unlike other politicians who have been voted out of office; actually goes back home pretty frequently.
So toppling Graham will be a much harder goal than say, teapedoing (torpedoing plus Tea….get it?) Richard Lugar or Bob Bennett. What often gets overlooked in those races are the fact that those guys were more D.C. institutions rather than statewide ones.
I have even kind of ignored the idea that Graham would get a big name challenge once Reps. Joe Wilson (of YOU LIE! fame) and Trey Gowdy announced that they would be staying on the sidelines. I expected Graham to get a very low-level state senator or “activist” to challenge him and for him to expectedly trounce them en route to another term in the Senate.
But this weekend, two candidates emerged. One that is egregiously Tea-flavored but one that has a great profile and another one who just seems like the type of person that a Democrat could conceivably beat in a primary.
Meet Nancy Mace and Lee Bright. Let’s start off with Mace as she appears to be the biggest threat to Graham. Mace was the first female graduate at the Citadel, is a local small businesswoman and is one of those types that espouse being a “non-politician”. In fact, Mace has the type of profile that could really launch her to be a Tea Party star and one that could get sufficient grassroots support to look into a potential national campaign at one point down the line.
Now, let’s be real though. Mace seems to fit the bill of a Tea Party loyalist and seems to be the favorite of all the “Brietbart-ian” people (check out this cited Twitter exchange) so we have to see if she’s actually a serious candidate as Graham won’t go down easily.
The other candidate is Lee Bright who seems to be uh….colorful? Bright has proposed legislation to allow schools to offer a class in firearms, to carry firearms without a permit and has received high marks from the Club for Growth. He still seems like someone though that could make headway but he’s more Libertarian and was a proud Ron Paul supporter in 2012. You can scoff at that but the Paulites are fairly adept at raising money and seem to be pretty into politics, so he might actually have a bit of a shot.
But what’s more important in all of this is the numbers 50%. As we all remember with Mark Sanford this year, South Carolina has an automatic run-off that is triggered when a candidate does not exceed 50%. Given the time that Mace and Bright have at defining themselves (and Graham can define them fairly quickly), its not a longshot to think that a fractured vote could get Graham under 50%.
However there is the likelihood that the only people Mace and Bright hurt are each other as dissatisfied conservatives (aren’t they always?) debate on who to pull the lever for.
For us though, as progressives, our best bet is to get Graham out. South Carolina is red and our floor in the state is not as high as it is in neighboring Georgia and North Carolina. Our bench is fairly weak as only one candidate, Jay Stamper, has announced his candidacy and he’s known for other things rather than politics. Stamper has been trying to start a grassroots campaign but I have yet to see any evidence that the DSCC is into his candidacy as of yet.
A race between Stamper and Bright would be highly entertaining though, I just worry that Stamper might be too progressive for South Carolina.
In terms of Democratic chances of winning the general election, Democrats should root for Bright, Mace and Graham in that order. However, no matter who the Republican nominee is the race will probably stay at either “Republican LOCK” or “Likely Republican” unless something Earth-shattering happens.
Still though, this is something that you need to keep your eyes open on as it could get fairly ugly quickly; which is always fun.