In South Carolina, voters are set to head to the polls today to settle a divisive Republican primary fight between embattled US Senator Lindsey Graham and a field of six conservative challengers. South Carolina requires the winning candidate to get over 50% of the vote, and, if this does not occur, the top-two candidates must face off in a runoff election, which would occur two weeks later. The first and only Republican US Senate primary debate took place last Saturday, and Lindsey Graham responded to his first question by taking a shot at the libertarian wing of the GOP, represented by former US Congressman Ron Paul.
At around the 8:30 mark in the above video, provided by South Carolina Educational Television and featuring footage of the entire debate, Lindsey Graham receives his opening question. Debate moderator Beth Padgett of The Greenville News asked, giving voice to concerns rising from talk radio, “Senator Graham, one of the main criticisms we’ve heard from you in this election is that you’re too eager to compromise with Democrats — that you rush across the aisle to forge a compromise and, in doing so, weaken the Republican Party’s position sometimes. How do you deal with that criticism?”
Senator Graham responded with, “Well, at the end of the day, my job is to represent my state’s interests and put my nation ahead of the party, but I love the Republican Party. The reason I’m going to win the primary, overwhelmingly, I hope, is because I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. I like Ron Paul, but I’m not a Ron Paul Republican… it’s not good to get to the left of Obama on foreign policy.”
Candidate Richard Cash, a small business owner, shot back at Graham‘s self-characterization as a Reagan Republican. “Senator, you describe yourself as a Ronald Reagan Republican, but a lot of us here on the stage tonight believe you’re a John McCain Republican.”
State Senator Lee Bright, who supported Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential election, is polling in second place, behind Graham and ahead of the other five challengers. Also running are Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of the military college The Citadel, Bill Conner and Benjamin Dunn, both of whom are attorneys and veterans of the War in Afghanistan, and Det Bowers, a lawyer and Christian minister. Graham’s opponents challenged him on a wide range of issues, including his support of the Wall Street bailout, his confirmation votes in favor of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, his position on immigration, and his willingness to abandon issues important to conservatives in an effort to reach across the aisle and pass legislation.
The State is providing updated South Carolina primary election results throughout the day at this link.