Graham: Without Immigration, Republican Survival ‘Bleak’

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) talks to reporters as he arrives at a closed door briefing on June 4, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) talks to reporters as he arrives at a closed door briefing on June 4, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Sen. Lindsey Graham says he won a Republican primary last week in South Carolina with well-coordinated paid media and get-out-the-vote operations that defined him as “a conservative leader who gets things done.”

“We had a lot of money, but we had 5,200 precinct captains,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program yesterday. “So we prepared the ground game. Nobody saw that coming. We really overwhelmed them on the ground.”

Graham won 56 percent of the vote in the June 10 election against six opponents, clearing the majority-vote threshold needed for outright victory on the same day that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was shockingly defeated in his Virginia primary by college economics professor David Brat.

Graham’s opponents attacked him for backing a Senate bill last year that would create a path to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants while directing $46.3 billion toward securing the border with Mexico. Opponents of the bill regularly refer to it as “amnesty” legislation. Three days before the primary, Graham said at a candidate debate that immigration “is a problem that’s not gonna get fixed by yelling about it.”

Graham said that the Republican Party faces a political imperative to address the immigration issue amid a diversifying electorate.

“It will break my heart for my party to go down a road that we need not go,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “Embrace rational, comprehensive immigration reform that prevents a third wave of illegal immigration and we’re back in the ballgame.  If we don’t adjust on this issue, our chances for survival as a party are very bleak.”

Cantor’s high-profile primary loss and the fractured opposition against Graham overshadowed the fact that more than four out of 10 Republicans wanted someone other than Graham to be their nominee. Outside groups aligned with the small-government Tea Party movement probably would have been more inclined to spend money against Graham had he faced one opponent — or if one of the six who did challenge Graham broke out of the pack from the others. Runner-up Lee Bright, a state senator, finished with just 15 percent of the vote.

Click here for a chart of the official results of the South Carolina primary in each of the state’s 46 counties.


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