Advisors to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (RINO-S.C.) are fiercely divided over how to handle the entrance of Lowcountry businessman and reality television star Thomas Ravenel into the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

One faction – led by Graham campaign manager Scott Farmer – believes Ravenel’s candidacy is all about attracting viewers to his reality television show, Southern Charm .

“Ignore him,” Farmer reportedly counseled Graham during a recent strategy meeting.

According to Farmer, a “ratings-driven” candidacy from Ravenel is not a threat to the two-term incumbent, because it means the former State Treasurer is unlikely to pump significant amounts of his fortune into the race.

Two of Graham’s other advisors – veteran GOP political consultant Richard Quinn and social conservative advisor Bob McAlister – argue that Ravenel’s bid spells real trouble for Graham, and are counseling aggressive response measures (independent of the exploits of various special interest groups supporting Graham’s candidacy).

“Exhibit A” in their pitch to Graham?  The candidacy of S.C. Sen. Brad Hutto, a credible Democrat who only jumped into the race when Ravenel started making noise about running.  Hutto is expected to receive extensive national Democratic support – and many Democratic donors have reportedly discussed forming a special interest group of their own to target Graham.

In fact according to our sources, they’ve already got a poll-tested advertising message in the works.

More on that in a moment …

So … which advisors is Graham listening to?  Well, earlier this week he made his first acknowledgment of Ravenel’s entry into the race, saying a campaign for U.S. Senate was no “audition for a reality show.”

Ravenel fired back immediately, saying “the difference between my reality TV show and Lindsey Graham’s reality TV show is simple: His is costing taxpayers trillions of dollars – and thousands of American lives.”

“And unlike my show, you can’t change the channel when his show comes on – and you can’t stop paying for it either,” Ravenel continued.

Advantage “T-Rav …”

Graham coasted to victory in a low-turnout Republican primary last month, but he’s still struggling in a general election matchup.  A solid forty percent of the state’s GOP electorate wouldn’t “piss on Graham if he were on fire,” as one activist put it, and many of them – including several GOP executive committeemen – have rallied behind Ravenel’s candidacy.

If Ravenel can build a coalition around these disgruntled Republicans – as well as fiscally conservative centrists who are upset with both parties and apolitical South Carolinians who don’t vote but are attracted to his star power – that’s the makings of a diverse and potentially potent constituency.

Then there’s the rumored Democratic hit on Graham, which our source described as “the ultimate silver bullet.”

“If Ravenel can’t beat him, this (ad) can,” a Democratic consultant familiar with the proposed concept advertisement told FITS. “Every donor who saw it reached right away for their checkbook.”

Wow …

Obviously if things remain as they are now, Lindsey Graham would win a third term in the Senate – probably with around 42 percent compared to Hutto’s 34 and Ravenel’s 24 percent.  But that’s the thing … it’s becoming abundantly clear that over the next three-and-a-half months, things are not  going to remain as they are.