On a night that saw a major tea party upset in Virginia, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham out-maneuvered six challengers to secure the Republican nomination without a runoff.
The win represents an overwhelming victory for the GOP establishment, while also sending much of the South Carolina tea party packing.
"Leadership and problem-solving comes with some political risk," Graham told more than 250 supporters at the Hilton Columbia Center Hotel after he was declared the winner. "You get lots of people running against you. But I'm here to tell you it's very much worth it."
Graham collected about six out of every 10 Republican votes Tuesday.
The victory is considered especially significant because the tea party movement in South Carolina was among the most active in the nation. Graham also survived on a night of major political upheaval as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was defeated by his underfunded tea party challenger, fellow Republican Dave Brat.
Meanwhile, in the state's other U.S. Senate primary, incumbent Republican Tim Scott easily secured the nomination with better than 90 percent of the vote against Upstate resident Randall Young, who filed for the seat in March but then disappeared from the campaign trail.
Scott faces the Democratic Party's U.S. Senate primary winner, Joyce Dickerson of Columbia, in November.
She too is black, practically assuring that South Carolina will have its first elected African-American U.S. senator; Scott was appointed to the post two years ago.
Graham's win quiets what had been a months-long press by some conservatives and tea party activists who had worked tirelessly to make his cozy relationship with Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his willingness to sometimes work with Democrats, issues in pressing for his replacement.
A majority of the Charleston County Republican Party's executive committee had even voted to "censure" Graham last month for what they called un-Republican behavior.
College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts said two story lines were at play in the outcome Tuesday.
First, Graham didn't take the race for granted, campaigning full-bore while armed with his $7 million war chest.
Second, Graham's six little-known GOP challengers ended up dividing the anti-Graham vote, not allowing for a single or choice opponent to emerge.
Also, "there wasn't any national money that came into the race," Knotts said. Outside money played a significant role in tea party candidate Chris McDaniel's success last week in Mississippi, taking GOP Sen. Thad Cochran into a runoff.
Graham's closest competitor was state Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg, who trailed significantly with about 15 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns with 97 percent of the precincts reporting.
Next in line were: Upstate businessman Richard Cash, 8 percent; Columbia minister Det Bowers, 7 percent; Charleston businesswoman Nancy Mace, 6 percent; Orangeburg lawyer Bill Connor, 5 percent; and Columbia lawyer Benjamin Dunn, 1 percent.
Graham, who is seeking his third term in Washington, will face Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg in November. Hutto was a 76 percent-24 percent winner over newcomer Jay Stamper, according to unofficial returns late Tuesday.
Graham remains a heavy favorite to win re-election in November. Hutto said Tuesday he is not going to simply roll over.
"Rather than appearing on the Sunday talk shows and manufacturing stunts to make the national news, I believe the people back home should be the highest priority for a Senator representing South Carolina," Hutto said. "I'll stand up to the party bosses and special interest groups that control Washington politicians like Lindsey Graham. I'll be an independent fighter for South Carolina."
Exit polls showed Graham's steady hand was what many voters wanted to stay with, including voters like John Mitchell, who cast his ballot Tuesday afternoon on James Island.
"He actually is open to talking to the other side," Mitchell said in explaining why he voted for Graham. "There's no way we can get anything accomplished if we don't talk to each other."
Beyond Graham's willingness to compromise, Mitchell said his time in office has been positive for South Carolina.
"He's done a lot of good for this state," Mitchell added.
During his victory speech, Graham returned to the themes he campaigned on, including strengthening the country's military and fighting radical Islam "over there so you don't come over here." Graham also asked minority voters to not write off the Republican Party, because it has a lot to offer.
Graham also promised to return to Washington to "repeal and replace Obamacare" with a bipartisan product.
"To my Democratic friends, Social Security is worth saving," he said. "If you need a partner, Lindsey Graham is here."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to supporters Tuesday in Columbia after crushing a crowded field in the Republican primary.×
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., addresses supporters Tuesday in North Charleston after winning the GOP primary with about 90 percent of the vote.×
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