Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) coasted to an easy victory in the South Carolina U.S. Senate Republican primary Tuesday, avoiding a runoff by surpassing the 50-percent margin required by law to claim the nomination.
With 71 percent of the precincts reporting, Graham had 58 percent of the vote, while six under-financed challengers split the remainder. State senator Lee Bright was a distant second with fourteen percent of the vote.
Graham is expected to easily defeat the Democratic nominee, Brad Hutto, who won his party’s primary with 75 percent of the vote, in the November general election.
Unlike House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who lost his Republican primary contest on Tuesday to Tea Party-backed college professor Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) almost exclusively based on his record of support for amnesty for illegal aliens, Graham was ably to deftly underplay the significance of his support for the Senate “Gang of Eight” pro-amnesty bill to South Carolina’s Republican primary voters.
Graham took the possibility of a Tea Party challenge seriously and moved early on to strengthen his relationships with high visibility South Carolina Republican members of the House who might have considered mounting a challenge with the support of the Tea Party.
In Virginia’s 7th Congressional District primary, all the local Tea Party groups rallied around Brat as their sole standard bearer. In the South Carolina Republican Senate primary, six little-known and poorly financed candidates split the anti-Graham vote.
Brat was also an energetic and articulate champion of the Tea Party’s principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets, who focused like a laser beam on Cantor’s key weakness: his support for amnesty.
In contrast, the half-dozen Graham challengers were all over the map in their criticisms of Graham. While Graham’s pro-amnesty position was one area they addressed, it was done with nothing like the relentless intensity and discipline displayed by Brat in Virginia.