South Carolina Republicans sour on Sen. Lindsey Graham after Tea Party comments

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

This week The New York Times Magazine dubbed Republican Senator Lindsey Graham 
”This Year’s Maverick.” Not facing reelection for another four years, the South Carolina senator has assumed the role of resident GOP contrarian, challenging Republican common wisdom and disparaging the Tea Party movement. South Carolina Republicans, however, are not pleased with many of the positions Graham has taken on some very pivotal issues.

“Everything I’m doing now in terms of talking about climate, talking about immigration, talking about Gitmo is completely opposite of where the Tea Party movement’s at,” Graham told The New York Times Magazine. The article goes on to note, “On four occasions, Graham met with Tea Party groups. The first, in his Senate office, was ‘very, very contentious,’ he [Graham] recalled. During a later meeting, in Charleston, Graham said he challenged them: ‘ ‘What do you want to do? You take back your country
— and do what with it?’ . . . Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent.’”

Ron Parks, a former Charleston Tea Party Organizer was at the first such meeting in Graham’s senate office. “When we were in that meeting with Senator Graham, we were appreciative that he had so graciously given us his time,” Parks told The Daily Caller, “but he would only tell us that we were just a small segment of voters. The extreme.” He continued, “We are not the extreme, few of us are even close to the extreme. We are the voters.”

Parks says that the vast majority of people he knows who voted for Graham in the past say they are not likely to vote for him again.

Yet, despite this anger toward Graham by some conservatives in South Carolina, Graham hardly shies away from critiques of the Tea Party.

“The problem with the Tea Party, I think it’s just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out,” he told The New York Times Magazine. “We don’t have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats…Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.”

Sandra Stroman, Republican Party Chairman for Chester County, disagrees.

“The Tea Party is alive and well here in South Carolina as you can see with the nomination of Nikki Haley and the popularity of Sarah
Palin,” she told The Daily Caller. “Lindsey tends to be out of touch on matters like these.”

Nonetheless, Stroman, who supported Graham in the past even though she considers him a moderate, says that his record is not all that bad.

“When you look at his voting record,” she said, “overall he does a pretty good job.”

She concedes, however, that depending on who you ask in South Carolina, many simply have a hard time supporting Graham.

Lin Bennett, Republican Party Chairman in Charleston County, was not shy about her opposition to the senator in an interview with The Daily Caller. She said Lindsey Graham has been unresponsive to the demands of his constituents and that the voters are not happy about
it.

“He is totally out of touch with his base in South Carolina,” she said. “His comments in The New York Times Magazine article only prove he does not understand the frustrations of his voters and that he has forgotten who it was he was elected to represent.”

She went on to note that angry constituents who feel ignored have taken to Facebook as a quick and effective way to voice their opposition to Graham.

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