It’s looking more likely that Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is on his own this election season.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s avoidance of whether he plans to endorse his fellow Senate Republican adds to the trend of ranking members of the GOP not taking sides toward Graham’s 2014 primary.
Scott was a guest on CNN’s Crossfire show Wednesday where co-host Van Jones asked him more than once whether he would back Graham against four lesser-known tea party candidates.
Scott didn’t directly respond.
“You know, as you three have heard recently, I am up for ... up for re-election myself. I’m going to make sure that Tim Scott gets out. ... I’m going to allow for all the other folks on the ballot to represent themselves very well, and I’m going to continue to work hard for my re-election.”
“No endorsement for Lindsey Graham tonight?” Jones asked.
Scott replied, “I’m certainly going to work really hard for Tim Scott re-election ... gotta win first.”
Many of the state’s other ranking elected officials have also been mum on supporting Graham. Some conservatives are critical of what they see as a senator too quick to compromise with Democrats, among other differences.
But on the plus side Thursday, Graham did receive a plug from Gov. Nikki Haley, who was in Arizona attending a National Governors Association meeting.
While Haley did not offer a direct endorsement, she did praise Graham for what he’s done for the state’s conservative agenda.
“I have made it very clear I am not going to be involved in any South Carolina races,” she said. “But I want to say this: on any issue that I have had to deal with Lindsey on, whether it was the NLRB issue, whether it was voter ID, whether it’s been on the fight that we’ve had with Obamacare or whether it’s been fighting for our businesses in South Carolina, Lindsey has dropped everything to help with those fights. And so for that I’m very grateful for him.”
Democrats pounced on the non-show of ballot box support.
“The Republican Party infighting continued tonight as Sen. Tim Scott followed in the right-wing footsteps of his mentor, Tea Party Gov. Nikki Haley, and refused to endorse South Carolina’s senior Senator Lindsey Graham for reelection,” the SC Democratic Party said in a statement released Wednesday night.
“Haley and Scott have consistently taken sides against common sense and pragmatism to follow the extreme political agenda,” the statement said. “Now they both have also refused to support one of the few federal elected officials in South Carolina who actually works to try to get things done to help our state’s families and businesses instead of forcing a government shutdown.”
Graham faces four candidates so far in next year’s GOP primary, all of whom are seeking support from what’s considered the tea party wing of the party. They are state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg; Upstate businessman Richard Cash; Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor; and Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of The Citadel Corps of Cadets.
College of Charleston political scientist Kendra Stewart watched the CNN video Thursday and said Scott’s response to the Graham issue was uncomfortable.
“I saw Tim Scott totally avoiding the question,” she said.
But she went on to say Scott also faces a Catch-22 because the same people who are against Graham in the GOP are part of his base.
“He needs them to vote for him,” she said.
Scott, Charleston’s former 1st District congressman, became the state’s junior senator in January after he was picked by Haley to fill the unexpired four years of Jim DeMint’s term when DeMint resigned to run the Heritage Foundation.
Because of South Carolina election laws, Scott has to defend the seat in the next general election in November 2014. Democrat and Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson announced for the seat earlier this month.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551