U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s six opponents, most of whom courted the Tea Party vote, were no match for the power of incumbency and a huge war chest, according to a Clemson political analyst. Clemson University Political Science professor Dave Woodard said Graham continues to display his political clout with the 56 percent vote despite an effort to unseat him.
“Well, $9 million prevails over six opponents. I think that is the short answer to that question,” Woodard said. “But, defying some trends in other states, he escaped a runoff. So it’s a great victory for him and sets him up for a third term.”
State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, won the Democratic primary and will face Graham in the fall.
Woodard noted that nationally, Tea Party voters were able to flex theirpolitical muscle in other GOP primaries with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor ousted in Virginia and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran forced into a runoff in Mississippi. In those states, Woodard said the Tea Party was able to mobilize its resources around one candidate. In contrast, Graham faced a half dozen relatively unknown candidates and none of them could muster any momentum.
“Even though there is some dissatisfaction with Graham and has been, no one person could emerge to sort of consolidate all that anger and remorse,” Woodard said. “So, as a result, he escapes.”
Woodard said he will be keeping an eye on the rise of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott as the campaign moves towards November. Scott was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley last year to serve out the term of outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint, but now he has won a statewide race winning 90 percent of the primary vote. Woodard says because South Carolina’s is a strong red state, Scott is poised to write his own ticket.
“Now I think he will begin to get more and more national attention, as well as local attention,” Woodard said. “He will face the race in the fall and if he is successful there he will be set up for the next two years because he has to run again in 2016. I think that is the news out of this so far: watch Tim Scott in the future.”
Scott will face Democratic challenger Richland County councilwoman Joyce Dickerson in the fall.
Only 16 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the primary, and Woodard says only 70 percent of primary voters usually return to the polls for a runoff. Woodard says, while turnout will likely be larger than 16 percent in November, it will still be relatively low because the races promise little excitement.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be outstanding in terms of previous midterm elections,” he predicted. “I don’t think there is what we call in political science “a high stimulus election,” something that will really drive voters to the polls. I don’t see anything among any of these races that will stimulate voters whom normally don’t vote to decide suddenly to vote in the fall.”