It was not a question of whether U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Seneca) would win June 10’s GOP primary. It was merely a question of by how much. Despite an acrid environment for incumbents perceived to be a part of the Republican establishment in D.C., of which Graham is seen by many South Carolina conservatives as the crowned head, a poll from Clemson University taken days before Tuesday’s primary showed Graham leading all of his six challengers by more than 40 percent. The final results gave Graham more than 50 percent of the total votes.
Yet, another Establishment icon, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor [R-Va.], received a primary pink slip from a virtually unknown candidate in an election in which Cantor was spending more at steak houses than his opponent was raising overall.
Pundits across the country are dissecting the reasons Cantor lost his re-election, and why Graham won his in an environment where both candidates faced voter backlash from the grassroots. As RealClearPolitics.com Senior Election Analyst Sean Trende puts it, the difference between Graham and Cantor’s fate was a matter of self-awareness. “Lindsey Graham knew that he had a target on his back, and fought hard to discourage members of Congress from running against him, and set up a top-notch constituent service operation,” writes Trende. “I am guessing [Cantor] didn’t realize he might have a problem until he was booed at a district meeting a month ago.”
“If he’d run scared, the result might well have been different,” says Trende.
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The lesson for incumbents is simple: Money and political clout is no excuse for forgetting about your district. Cantor ignored the growing discontent in his district while instead focusing on building his own little empire in Washington. Meanwhile, Graham at least acted like he was listening, and on Tuesday, it was enough to convince S.C. voters that Graham deserved another term in the Senate.
However, the primary results hold wisdom for the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition and other anti-incumbent challengers as well.
There is no denying Graham’s resounding victory in the primary reflects poorly on the strength of the SCTPC as a counterbalance to GOP establishment in both Columbia and D.C. Conservative resentment towards GOP leadership, dating back to the Bush administration, continues to grow. This discontent creates the perfect environment for defeating establishment figures like Graham. Nonetheless, Graham out-organized and out-campaigned all of his opponents from the start; even in September of last year, Graham enjoyed a 29-point lead over his strongest challenger, State Senator Lee Bright.
Resentment against the establishment was the catalyst of Cantor’s defeat, but Cantor’s detachment from conditions in his district was the true root of his downfall. As Graham’s victory proved last week, ire alone is not enough to guarantee the defeat of a vulnerable incumbent.
Think of anger in politics like a bullet in a frying pan. Without a barrel to direct the explosion, the bullet goes in any direction. Good candidates can take that anger and direct it towards a target by providing solutions to a problem rather than just adding more heat.
Graham’s many opponents never were able to effectively articulate a reason why they deserved a vote other than being anti-Graham. This strategy works on the diehards who have “Fire Lindsey” signs in their front yards, but to the middle-of-the-road voters -- the voters that swing elections -- it comes off as the same sort of divisiveness paralyzing Congress today.
The “Tea Party” (or whatever incensed conservatives want to call themselves) in South Carolina could learn from Graham; not just getting better organized around the state to start launching formidable opposition to establishment candidates, but also in providing more than just anti-Graham talking points. People are angry, but they also want more than to be only reminded about why they are angry.
Marijuana-Derived Medication Now Legal in S.C
On June 3, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley signed into a law a bill opening the door for the use of marijuana-derived cannabidiol oil (CBD) for the treatment of medical problems. State Senator Tom Davis, a Beaufort-area Republican, sponsored the bill after hearing about a 6-year-old girl from Charleston who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy that only responds to CBD oil, which until now was illegal in the state. Davis was also tapped to head a committee studying the feasibility of cultivating medical marijuana in the state.
Texting and Driving Now Illegal Statewide
Texting and driving is now illegal everywhere in South Carolina. The new law eliminates confusing and over-reaching local ordinances on texting. The fine for violating the texting ban is $25, and applies to texts, instant messages and e-mails transmitted by drivers who are not lawfully stopped or parked.