Buddy Witherspoon, a veteran Republican National Committeeman who is exploring a GOP primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was in D.C. to meet with reporters. Witherspoon hopes to capitalize on grassroots conservative discontent with Graham.
Two issues Witherspoon raises are illegal immigration and conservative judges. Graham is potentially vulnerable on both counts, since he supported the failed “comprehensive” immigration legislation and was a party to the “Gang of 14” judicial filibuster compromise. Both positions were unpopular with the base.
I asked Witherspoon whether he thought those issues would be enough to mount a successful primary challenge, especially since Graham had taken some steps to protect his right flank on taxes and abortion (usually the best openings for conservative primary challengers). He argued that Graham has a McCain-like image of trying to be a maverick at the expense of his party, a problem that goes beyond specific votes or issue positions. Witherspoon pointed out that Graham had teamed with John McCain on torture; Graham had also stated that he was open to raising the payroll tax cap.
The primary is scheduled for June 10, 2008. Graham had $4.2 million in his campaign account at the end of last quarter.
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