Graham to GOP: Embrace Reagan conservatism

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham discusses Syria and other top issues with reporters moments before a Small Business Luncheon sponsored by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.Leroy Burnell/

The Republican Party has a great opportunity to re-gain control of the country, but it must seize the day, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Saturday night.

The GOP is poised to win back a majority in the Senate and keep its advantage in the House in Congressional elections this fall, Graham said.

"We can win the White House in 2016 if we stop shooting ourselves in the foot. We're not going to blow it. We're going to turn this country around," he said at The Citadel.

He delivered the keynote address at The Citadel Republican Society's annual Patriot Dinner, where he received the 2014 Nathan Hale Patriot Award. Congressional colleagues paid tribute to Graham in recorded messages played for the audience of about 200 people.

Graham, who is up for re-election, is facing GOP primary challengers state Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg, Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor, Upstate businessman Richard Cash and Citadel graduate and Lowcountry public relations businesswoman Nancy Mace. They accuse Graham of not being a true conservative.

Some Citadel cadets asked what they thought of the race said they were not allowed to comment because they were in uniform.

Graham told The Citadel audience that the GOP needs to wake up and become Reagan Republicans who embrace peace through strength.

"Conservatism is an asset. We need to sell conservatism without apology. The future is there if we want it," he said.

The GOP needs to take its conservative message to Hispanics, the fastest-growing demographic in the country, he said.

Democrats are vulnerable because of Obamacare and a failed foreign policy, he said.

Restoration of military spending cuts, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and getting to the bottom of what happened during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi were among key talking points for Graham.

He compared the current state of affairs to conditions not seen since the 1920s and 1930s.

"This world is about to go into chaos," he said.

He called for job training rather than welfare, energy independence and a streamlined tax code that is easy to understand.

Earlier in the day, Graham hosted a pancake breakfast at the Barbeque Joint in North Charleston.