Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina plans to announce his candidacy for his party's primary on June 1. But having faced extreme backlash from the Tea Party in his 2014 reelection campaign, it remains to be seen whether he'll win the group over this time around.
Graham is not new to campaigning, having served four terms in the House of Representatives, and three in the Senate. But during his most recent campaign in the 2014 midterm elections, he encountered resistance from an unlikely source: other Republicans.
The animosity started when Graham promoted bipartisan cooperation in Congress and worked with Democratic senators. At a town hall meeting in June 2010, one audience member reportedly told Graham to "be conservative and quit reaching across the aisle."
Tension mounted when Graham diverged from his party on certain hot-button issues, such as climate change, Mother Jones reports. In response to Graham's actions, Greensville GOP made a list of 29 offenses which it “strongly disapprove of and hold to be fundamentally inconsistent with the principles of the South Carolina Republican Party."
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A "mutiny" erupted in South Carolina against Graham after he endorsed energy legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Conservative critics accused Graham of weakening the Republican brand and tarnishing the "ideals of freedom, rule of law and fiscal conservatism." Some even said he was undercutting "Republican leadership and party solidarity for his own benefit," according to Mother Jones. Graham's signing of a bipartisan climate bill in 2010 only worsened matters, and Tea Party activists responded by holding a protest outside his office in Greensville.
Graham, a former military prosecutor, continued to anger the Tea Party when we worked with President Barack Obama on Guantanamo Bay and in bringing terror suspects to justice. He also sparked controversy when he advocated for immigration reform, prompting other conservatives to reportedly nickname him "Flimsy Lindsey" and "Grahmnesty."
Graham fired back at his detractors, calling the anti-immigration sect "bigots." In July 2010, Graham also said the Tea Party would "die out" because "they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the county."
Later in 2010, Graham appeared to be trying to make amends with the group. He told Politico that Tea Partyers “(came) to Washington talking about reducing spending. Thank God they're here.” He even worked with Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, Tea Party caucus founders, to raise the retirement age to 70, among other Social Security reforms.
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When Graham ran for reelection in 2014, some feared resistance from the Tea Party, but, according to Mother Jones, the conservatives were not able to find another suitable candidate to win the Republican primary.
Concerning Graham's potential presidential bid, the Tea Party has so far been silent on the subject. It remains to be seen how long that silence will last.
Graham explained why he is running, saying, “It’s my ability in my own mind to be a good commander in chief and make Washington work.
"The reason I’ve had six primary opponents in my last election is because I’ve been accused of working with Democrats too much," he added, reported CNN. "In my view, Democrats and Republicans work together too little, and I would try to change that if I got to be president."
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