Human Events/Gravis Polls

Human Events/Gravis S.C. poll: Trouble for Graham

Human Events/Gravis S.C. poll: Trouble for Graham

There is great volatility for Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham heading into the 2014 primary election, according to a Human Events/Gravis poll of 601 registered South Carolina voters, who had voted in a GOP primary in the previous four years.

“There is a significant bloc of undecided voters among South Carolina Republicans, who are not committed to Senator Graham,” said Doug Kaplan, the president of Florida-based Gravis Marketing.

“Asked if they would support a Tea Party candidate in the primary against Graham, 39 percent responded: Yes, 37 percent responded: No and 27 percent were undecided,” Kaplan said.

Put head-to-head, Graham against former senator James W. DeMint, 47 percent supported DeMint, 36 percent Graham and 17 percent were undecided, he said. DeMint resigned from the Senate to take the helm of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

“DeMint is not running, but we wanted to use him as a gauge for Graham’s support against a known quantity,” he said. “Now, he has four primary opponents with very little name recognition, for example Bill Connor, an attorney and Army Ranger, was only in the race for three weeks, so it almost isn’t fair to include him, but now we have a baseline.”

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Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.) with then-senator James W. DeMint

The four opponents running against Graham are: Attorney and Army Ranger Bill Connor, state Sen. Lee Bright, businessman and missionary Richard Cash and Nancy R. Mace, who was part of the Republican establishment’s dirty tricks campaign against Gov. Nikki Haley.

Asked for their preference, 54 percent of GOP voters chose Graham with 23 percent undecided, he said. The other candidates came in: Bright 16 percent, Mace 6 percent, Cash 5 percent and Connor 2 percent.

Tate Zeigler, Graham’s campaign spokesman, said the poll was too early to have real value.

“Polls like this are about as accurate as predicting what the weather is going to be on a certain day six months from now,” Zeigler said.

“Keeping that in mind, we were pleased to see Senator Graham received the support of nearly 60 percent of self-identified Republicans in a hypothetical five-way primary,” he said. “He looks forward to the campaign and taking his strong conservative record directly to the voters next year.”

Clemson University political science Professor David Wooward said Graham is in trouble, but he will survive.

“I have run polls and know that LG is quite vulnerable with the GOP base,” said Woodward, who managed Graham’s 1994, 1996 campaigns for the House of Representatives. “That said, I don’t see him being displaced this cycle, and I certainly don’t think Lee Bright can do it. Maybe Connor or Cash, but not Mace or Bright.”

Republicans are frustrated, he said.

“LG has been too erratic for them, but with $7 million in the bank and great name recognition against a small field, he looks pretty good for re-election,” he said.

Dean Clancy, the vice president of public policy of FreedomWorks, the Washington-based support hub for Tea Party organization, said Graham should be concerned.

“The question is not whether Graham will win, the question is whether or not the grassroots will let a RINO incumbent skate by without being held accountable,” he said. A RINO is a Republican In Name Only, a description used for politicians, who campaign as Republicans, but do not act as Republicans in office.

“The basis of representative democracy is that you face your constituents every few years and defend your record,” he said. “Graham should be very worried, because this poll shows that he has reached a high water mark that is south of what a hypothetical Tea Party challenger could get. Senator Graham, call your office.”

The senator has not operated on Capitol Hill as a conservative, he said.

“Based on his voting record in the Senate, I would suggest that Senator Graham may want to Google ‘conservative values,’” he said.

“From his support of unchecked NSA spying, to his brief dalliance with support for cap-and-trade, to his unwillingness to vote to defund ObamaCare, Senator Graham has consistently been a supporter of the big government leviathan,” he said. “That doesn’t sound very conservative to me.”

Connor said despite his showing, he is encouraged by the poll because he is the candidate who most closely emulates DeMint and the goals of the Tea Party.

“I spoke at the first Tea Party rally in the history of the state, back in 2009—I am the only one of the challengers, who can say that,” he said. “I have been with that movement, and it is not a political party, but it’s the concern for the constitution that ties Tea Party people together.”

DeMint is a constitutional conservative, he said. “I put myself in the Tea Party-Jim DeMint mold.”

The mood of the voters is going against Graham, he said.

“It is amazing the amount of anti-Graham passion across the state among conservative groups, be it Tea Party, GOP or conservative veterans groups,” said the 23-year Army veteran, who served a 15-month tour in Afghanistan.

The poll also asked South Carolina voters about their presidential preferences and about other issues.

Among GOP voters the top pick was former Arkansas governor Michael D. Huckabee, 18 percent; former Florida governor John E. “Jeb” Bush, 17 percent; Undecided, 16 percent; New Jersey Gov. Christopher J. Christie, 14 percent; Texas Sen. R. Edward “Ted” Cruz, 13 percent; Kentucky Sen. Randall H. “Rand” Paul, 8 percent; Florida Sen. Marco A. Rubio, 8 percent, former Pennsylvania senator Richard J. Santorum, 3 percent and Wisconsin Gov. Scott K. Walker, 2 percent.

On issues: 85 percent support drug testing welfare recipients, 75 percent want to defund Obamacare, and 69 percent do not want Congress to raise the ceiling on the federal debt.

Clancy said South Carolina is a test for holding politicians accountable.

“Voters’ eyes are increasingly open to the difference between what these politicians say they believe and how they actually behave in Washington D.C.,” he said.

“This movement to unseat Graham is definitely a barometer for the disgust that many conservatives and libertarians are feeling for the Republican establishment across the country,” he said.

“Win or lose, the strength of the multi-candidate uprising against Graham sends a message to all incumbents that you can’t expect to just coast to reelection on empty rhetoric.”

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