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Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Carolina for 2020 campaign kickoff
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
GREENVILLE, South Carolina (CFP) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has become one of President Donald Trump’s most vigorous and unlikely defenders in the Senate. And now, he’s reaping the rewards.
Graham officially launched his 2020 re-election bid on March 30 with Vice President Mike Pence by his side at stops in Myrtle Beach and Greenville. And Pence brought greetings from the commander-in-chief.
“South Carolina and America need Lindsey Graham in the United States Senate, and I’m not the only one who thinks that where I work,” Pence told a rally in Greenville. “We’re standing next to this man because of the way he stood next to us.”
Graham also put his relationship with Trump front-and-center in his re-election campaign.
“Purpose No. 1 is to help President Trump in his second term, to be an ally of this president who has kept his word, who is making America great again and will continue to do so,” Graham said. “I want to help him because I believe in what he’s doing.”
It was not always thus. During the 2016 campaign, when he was running against Trump for president, Graham called him a “kook” who was “unfit for office.” In the general election, he voted for third-party candidate Evan McMullin, rather than embracing his party’s nominee — and openly admitted his apostasy to the press.
Graham had long been a champion of comprehensive immigration reform, the polar opposite of Trump’s stance on immigration policy. And his closest friend in the Senate was the late John McCain, Trump’s most persistent Senate critic.
But over the last year, Graham and Trump have warmed to each other, frequently playing golf together, and his previous criticism has been replaced with praise. And he has sided with the president in some very visible fights, most notably his defense of Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I’ve come to find common ground with him,” Graham said of Trump in Greenville. “I like him, and he likes him, and that seems to be working for both of us.”
“Every day with President Trump is like Christmas. You don’t know what’s under the tree, but you know there’s something under it,” Graham said. “Some days it’s a good shotgun you’ve been wanting, and other days it’s a sweater. But it all works.”
Graham, 63, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is seeking his fourth term in the Senate in 2020. In his last two campaigns in 2008 and 2014, he faced primary challenges from opponents on the right who criticized him for being insufficiently conservative, particularly on the immigration issue.
Graham won both of those primaries, but in 2014 was held to 56 percent of the vote, not the strongest of showings for an incumbent senator.
If Graham needed a lesson in the perils of getting sideways with the president’s followers, it came last summer when then-U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, a Trump critic who represented the Lowcountry in Congress, was bounced in a Republican primary in which the president endorsed his opponent.
Having Trump on side in 2020 will make it much more difficult for successful challenge to Graham from within the party.
Graham has already drawn three Republican challengers, but none of them are well known and are unlikely to be a threat.
In his three previous Senate elections, Graham won the general election easily in a state where Republicans are dominant. But he could face a Democratic challenge in 2020 from Jamie Harrison, a Columbia attorney and former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2020 race.
Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in the Palmetto State since 1998.
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Democrats in 5th U.S. House District will decide fate of Archie Parnell after spouse abuse revelations
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
CHARLESTON (CFP) — Governor Henry McMaster and two of his GOP opponents will jockey for runoff spots in South Carolina’s Republican primary Tuesday, while U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford will try to hang on to his seat against a Republican primary challenger who has made his critical comments about President Donald Trump an issue in the race.
Republicans in the 4th U.S. House District will also cull down a staggering field of 12 candidates vying for the party’s nomination for an open seat, while in the 5th District, Democrat Archie Parnell will find out if his own party will abandon him over revelations about spousal abuse from four decades ago.
Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In the governor’s race, recent polling shows McMaster — who inherited the office last year when Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — appears likely to snag one of the top two runoff spots but fall short of the outright majority he needs to avoid a runoff.
The chase for the second spot is between Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who served in two state executive positions under Haley, and John Warren, a Greenville businessman and Iraq war veteran making his first run for political office.
McMaster and Templeton have both been competing for the imprimatur of the popular Haley, who appointed Templeton to head both the state health and labor departments and served for two years with McMaster as lieutenant governor before leaving for New York.
Haley, who is barred by federal law from getting involved in partisan political campaigns while serving in the executive branch, has remained neutral. But on her campaign website, Templeton features a quote from Haley calling Templeton a “great professional who hasn’t just been good at anything, she’s been great at everything.”
Warren has become the dark horse in the race, putting in more than $3 million of his own money to be financially competitive with McMaster and Templeton.
The Democratic governor’s race also appears headed to a runoff, with three candidates bunched together in pre-election polls. The field includes State Rep. James Smith from Columbia, Phil Noble, a Charleston business consultant who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, and Marguerite Willis, a Florence lawyer and wife of former longtime Florence Mayor Frank Willis.
The two two finishers in both races will compete in June 26 runoffs. Also for the first time this year, candidates for governor have selected running mates for lieutenant governor, rather than having the office elected independently.
In the 1st U.S. House District, which includes Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast, Sanford is facing a strong primary challenge from Republican State Rep. Katie Arrington, who has made Sanford’s previous comments about Trump an issue.
Sanford has been one of the few Republicans in Congress to speak out against the president, calling his behavior in office “weird,” criticizing Trump’s disparagement of Haiti and countries in Africa and calling his policy of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.”
In an era in which anti-establishment outsiders often have the upper hand, Sanford is also a consummate insider, having served 14 years in the House and two terms as governor.
However, Sanford has also proven himself a political survivor, battling his way back to Congress in 2012 after his second term as governor spiraled down in scandal amid public revelations about an extramarital affair with an Argentinian lover.
In one of her ads, Arrington directly alluded to the scandal: “Bless his heart, but it’s time for Mark Sanford to take a hike — for real this time,” a reference to a lie Sanford told to the media that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was actually out of the country with his paramour.
The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney who has raised more than $500,000 in a bid to flip the 1st District seat.
In the 5th District, which stretches from the Columbia suburbs north toward Charlotte, Parnell is now trying to a survive a Democratic primary that had once looked like a sure thing, after divorce records came to light three weeks ago revealing that he physically abused his first wife in the 1970s.
Democratic leaders have urged Parnell to quit, but he refused. He faces three little-known candidates — one of whom is a professional circus clown — which should insure Parnell at least a place in a runoff if he can’t win the nomination outright.
In a special election last year to fill the seat vacated when Mick Mulvaney became Trump’s budget director, Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, shocked the political world by coming in just 2 points behind Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, in a district Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.
Based on the closeness of the special election, Parnell raised more than $3.6 million for the rematch, putting him in the top 20 nationally among House candidates. But the abuse allegations probably extinguished any hopes Democrats had of defeating Norman and flipping the seat.
Norman drew national headlines in April when he pulled out a loaded gun during a meeting with gun control advocates at a local diner. The incident came less than two months after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Norman defended his actions, saying he was “tired of guns being demonized.”
Upstate in the 4th District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg, 12 Republicans are running for the seat being given up by the retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, virtually ensuring a runoff.
Among the competitors are former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary in 2014; State Senator William Timmons from Greenville; Josh Kimbrell, a Christian radio host from Spartanburg; and State Rep. Dan Hamilton from Greenville.
On the Democratic side of the ballot, five candidates are competing for runoff spots including Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville; J.T. Davis, a Simpsonville businessman; Eric Graben, a Greenville attorney; Will Morin from Greenville, a former trainer for the U.S. Olympic luge team; and Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant.
Graham’s decision opens up political space for the February 20 South Carolina primary
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Mired in single digits in the polls and relegated to the undercard in the Republican debates, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has ended his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
But Graham, who made national security and the battle against ISIS the centerpiece of his White House run, said his campaign has changed the conversation within the Republican field on those issues, pushing the party toward a more hawkish stance.
“I got into this race to put forward a plan to win a war we cannot afford to lose and to turn back the tide of isolationism that was rising in our party,” he said in a YouTube video posted December 22 announcing his departure. “I believe we made enormous progress in this effort.”
Graham said most the Republican candidates have come around to his thinking on one issue in particular–the need to use American ground forces to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Graham’s departure allows him to take his name off the ballot for the South Carolina primary, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing defeat in his home state.
South Carolina will hold its pivotal presidential primary on February 20, less than two weeks after the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. The vote in the Palmetto State will be the first test of strength in the South.
After his withdrawal announcement, Graham told CNN that he has no plans to endorse any of the other candidates in the field. However, his departure could free up Graham supporters in South Carolina to sign on with other candidates.
During the campaign, Graham has been a strong critic of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, which could give him a strong incentive to back another candidate who could defeat the real-estate magnate.
Graham, 60, won his third term in the Senate in 2014. He is one of the Senate’s strongest hawks on military and national security issues, but he has also run afoul of some conservatives in his party for supporting immigration reform and crossing the aisle to make bi-partisan deals with Democrats.
The remaining Southern GOP candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.
Jindal’s decision comes after he was unable to gain traction in the polls or a place in the top-tier debates
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Saying it was “not my time,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has ended his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
“We spend a lot of time developing detailed policy papers, and given this crazy, unpredictable election season, clearly there just wasn’t a lot of interest in those policy papers,” Jindal said in a November 17 appearance on Fox News, where he announced he was suspending his campaign.
“Certainly, we thought it would end differently, but the reality is, this is not my time.”
Jindal, 44, whose term as Louisiana’s chief executive ends in January, said he will return to the think tank he founded, America Next, after he leaves office.
When he was elected in 2007, Jindal, a former congressman and official in the George W. Bush administration, was one of America’s youngest governors and was considered to be a rising star in the GOP.
But amid a budget crisis in Baton Rouge, Jindal saw his approval ratings back home plunge, and he was unable to get out of the low single digits in polling of the crowded Republican presidential field.
Jindal had been relegated to the second tier in the first three GOP debates.
Jindal becomes the second Southern Republican to exit the race, joining former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who left in September.
The remaining candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.
Southerners Graham, Rubio and Cruz among the candidates filing for February 9 ballot
♦By Patrick Scanlan, Chickenfriedpolitics.com contributor
CONCORD, New Hampshire (CFP) — Presidential candidates have been spending important time in New Hampshire over the past two weeks, passing through the Secretary of State’s office to file for candidacy and secure a spot on the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary ballot. The filing period attracts unknown underdogs and current poll leaders alike, who will all share equal space on the New Hampshire ballot.
The majority of candidates filing, including U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida, expressed support for keeping the New Hampshire primary first in the national nominating calendar, allowing any U.S. citizen the ability to run for president and set the tone for the rest of the election.
Graham called the retail politics of the Granite State “an antidote to big money.”
“This is the last place where you can break through without being rich,” Graham said. He said that increasingly, the modern political process, with an emphasis on national polls and use of social media, is changing the way candidates run for president.
“The way you become heard now is not going to house parties and town halls, it’s whatever you need to say or do to get your national polling up,” he said.
Cruz said that “if our first elections were decided by large states, they would all be decided by slick Hollywood TV ads” and the winners “would just be whoever spends the most money.”
Cruz also took time to talk about larger issues. He stressed the importance of uniting conservatives with “common sense conservative values” and cited his previous record of standing up to Washington and big government, especially dealing with complex current issues such as immigration.
“If the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton are both advocates of amnesty, millions of working men and women will say, ‘To heck with all of you, you’re a bunch of corrupt Washington cronies, and I ain’t showing up,” Cruz said.
During his tour through the State House in Concord, Rubio defended himself over recent headlines related to the controversy of his use of a Florida GOP credit card for personal expenses, which he said was being drummed up by his political opponents.
“Those aren’t public documents, guys. Those are documents that were leaked by the chairman of the Republican Party, who was supporting my opponents,” Rubio said.
“The main issue in this election is moving forward and understanding the challenges before American and the challenges before our people,” he said.
The New Hampshire primary is February 9.
Kentucky senator makes pitch to Latino libertarian group in Las Vegas
♦By Andy Donahue, Chickenfriedpolitics.com contributor
LAS VEGAS (CFP) – Just hours after CNN’s Republican presidential debate, U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky barnstormed Nevada, taking his presidential campaign on a four-city sweep of the key early caucus state.
Paul began his Nevada tour in Carson City before attending events in Reno and Ely and wrapping up with an appearance at a Latino public policy forum at the College of Southern Nevada near Las Vegas on September 17.
The event was hosted by the LIBRE Initiative, a non-partisan group that advocates limited government and free enterprise, providing a congenial and receptive audience for Paul, who hails from the libertarian wing of the GOP
Paul made frequent, poignant allusions to Spanish literature throughout his address while telling his own narrative of learning small amounts of Spanish from immigrant children his own age while growing up in Texas. He said the vast wealth and income discrepancies between him and these children were instrumental in his dedication to immigration and border security solutions.
To address these inequalities, Paul is campaigning on an immigration plan built on the economics of supply and demand, advocating for job specific visas that are “proportional” to the number of openings for each job.
Paul saluted the Latino community’s shared commitment to hard work, telling the audience that he “never sees a Hispanic pan-handler.”
Paul also quoted Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a source of “advice Republicans might consider,” reciting a line from “Love in the Time of Cholera” to call on his country and his party to seek renewal:
“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them … Life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
Nevada will hold its presidential caucuses on February 23, 2016, with 30 delegates at stake. It is the fourth event in the 2016 primary calendar–after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina–and the first test of strength in the West.
Paul is one of eight Southern candidates in the GOP race. The others are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
The lone Southern seeking the Democratic nomination is former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.
Former Texas governor says “no room” for “nativist appeals” in GOP race
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ST. LOUIS (CFP) — Four months before the first vote is cast, former Texas Governor Rick Perry has suspended his campaign for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination — but not before taking a veiled blast at front-runner Donald Trump over his negative comments about Latino immigrants.
“We cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further,” Perry said, without mentioning Trump by name. “There is no room for debate that denigrates certain people based on their heritage or their origin.”
“We can secure the border of this country and reform our immigration system without inflammatory rhetoric … Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ.”
Perry, who has languished near the bottom of the polls in the crowded GOP field, announced the end of his campaign September 11 in an appearance before the Eagle Forum, a conservative women’s group. The decision to drop out came after news reports that his campaign no longer had enough money to pay staff.
Saying “some things have become clear to me,” Perry went on to laud what he termed “a tremendous field of candidates.”
“I step aside knowing our party’s in good hands as long as we listen to the grassroots, listen to the cause of conservatism,” he said.
Perry, 65, a former Air Force officer who was a cotton farmer in West Texas before getting into politics, left office in January after serving 14 years as governor, the longest tenure in the state’s history.
This was his second try for the White House. He ran in 2012, entering the campaign as one of the favorites only to see his stock plummet after a series of of gaffes, including a moment in a debate when he could not remember the name of a federal agency he had previously pledged to abolish. He later blamed his faltering performance on lack of preparation and the aftereffects of back surgery.
Perry had hoped for political redemption in the 2016 race, but his candidacy never caught fire in the polls. He was one of the most outspoken critics of Trump, particularly over his assertions that many illegal migrants from Mexico were criminals.
Perry was one of nine Southern Republicans seeking the nomination. The other candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
The lone Southern seeking the Democratic nomination is former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.
Watch video of Perry’s withdrawal announcement: