Davis criticized Graham for supporting the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008, saying TARP used “taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street bankers who engaged in very risky practices.”
“Instead of forcing Wall Street to pay the price for bad investments, you have the federal government coming to bail them out,” Davis said. “That is the antithesis of conservatism.”
In June, Graham distanced himself from a pledge against tax increases sponsored by Grover Norquist.
“I’m willing to move my party, or try to, on the tax issue,” Graham said at the time. “I need someone on the Democratic side being willing to move their party on structural changes to entitlements.”
Norquist replied that ”Lindsey Graham in not a thought leader in the Republican Party.”
The New York Times quoted Graham saying he was willing to accept higher tax revenues to prevent cuts in defense spending, although his office later clarified that he was referring only to closing tax loopholes.
“I think someone will challenge Lindsey Graham for these reasons,” Davis told The DC News Foundation. Noting that many local Republican committees have adopted resolutions critical of Graham, he said he saw a “fundamental disconnect” between some of the senator’s positions and conservative South Carolinians.
Yet Graham easily fended off a 2008 primary challenge from former Republican National Committeeman Buddy Witherspoon.
That year Bob Conley, a conservative who had supported the Republican presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, won the Democratic nomination to challenge Graham.
“The old Democrat is the new Democrat,” Conley said of his unlikely primary win.
Graham defeated Conley by a 16-percent margin.
Davis said a run against Graham wasn’t in his current plans, but that whoever accepted the task would have to ask the senator “a lot of hard questions.”
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is another possible challenger.
Utah Sen. Robert Bennett, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are incumbent Republicans who have lost their primaries to tea party-backed challengers in recent years. Murkowski was re-elected as a write-in candidate.
The late Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist both opted to leave the Republican Party rather than face primary opponents with tea party backing. (RELATED: Longtime GOP Senate moderate Arlen Specter dies)
Tea party candidates have also been accused of hurting Republicans’ general election chances in some races. Christine O’Donnell was blamed for the GOP’s loss of a likely Senate pickup in Delaware, and polls show the Senate race in Indiana tightened considerably after Lugar lost his re-nomination fight.
“I’m not going to give this party over to people who can’t win,” Graham told conservative critics at a South Carolina Republican convention.
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