As usual, Lindsey Graham isn't afraid to tackle the elephant in the room — even if the elephant in question is his own party's symbol.
On Wednesday, South Carolina's senior senator told CNN that “I just think the hard truth is we have a demographics problem.”
That comment mirrored one he made to the website Politico just before Republican Mitt Romney lost the presidential election to Barack Obama:
“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn't conservative enough I'm going to go nuts.”
Graham, of course, is absolutely right. It's hard to win an election when you have people who insult large voting blocs on a daily basis. Pretty soon that's going to add up to more than 47 percent.
But a lot of people don't see it that way, which means Graham may need to start looking for a padded room somewhere to go nuts in. Because a lot of people are already saying he is just like Romney — not conservative enough.
Quit saying dumb stuff
Dave Woodard, a Republican political science professor at Clemson, agrees with Graham on one point: The GOP needs to make itself attractive to emerging demographics. But that doesn't mean, Woodard says, “we abandon our core values.”
“If we have to change our position on abortion, I'm not going to do that,” he says.
Yeah, that's not happening. And Graham isn't suggesting it should.
But it would be smart for the party if old white men would quit spouting off crazy stuff about women's health, and if GOP leaders didn't fashion immigration policy that makes Latino citizens here legally subject to unreasonable search and seizure.
Neal Thigpen, longtime Francis Marion University political scientist, and a Republican, says the party needs to quit doing things like that anyway. But with the tea party driving the train, he says, “I don't know that they are going to be able to do that.”
Graham was very likely making those comments as much as about own his re-election as anything.
Most folks expect that Graham will face a significant challenge from within the party in two years. See, most folks don't think he's a real elephant, but a RINO (Republican in Name Only).
It doesn't matter that Graham is absolutely against raising anyone's taxes. And it makes no difference that he supports a sensible immigration reform policy. Or even that he went out and campaigned for Romney in the swing state of North Carolina.
He's not out there enough, which basically means he isn't going around saying things that embarrass the party and cost them votes. But Graham isn't conservative enough for some folks here — sort of like Romney, who lost South Carolina in the primary to Atilla the Gingrich.
The far right can go after Graham and maybe beat him in the primary. Perhaps they'll nominate someone with ignorant thoughts on rape and Democrats will take his seat, as they did in Indiana.
If the GOP wants to quit losing, perhaps they should listen to Graham instead of beating up on him.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC