It’s official: S.C. Sen. Lee Bright has emerged as the initial “anti-Graham,” or “conservative alternative” to incumbent U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (RINO-S.C.) in next year’s contested GOP Senate primary race in South Carolina. We say not out of any affinity for Bright (although we love his voting record) but based instead on Bright’s early show of grassroots strength and his positioning just ahead of Graham’s other challengers in early Palmetto State polling.
And while none of Graham’s challengers have made much of a dent in fundraising (in contrast to Graham’s special interest-fed $7 million war chest), Bright brought in roughly as much last quarter as Nancy Mace – the Lowcountry businesswoman who is viewed as the most electable alternative to Graham.
So … will Bright maintain this “anti-Graham” status as this election moves into its next phase?
We don’t think so.
First, Bright has been putting off (for months now) a financial disclosure report that many believe will sink his candidacy.
How come? Because as this website has previously reported, Bright’s personal finances aren’t exactly in ship shape.
How bad are things? We’ll know by the end of the month … unless of course Bright is able to somehow gain another extension from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Beyond this ticking time bomb, though, Bright also has a longer term issue to contend with: His credibility as a candidate. While no one doubts Bright’s commitment to pro-free market reforms (or the taxpayers), it’s the rest of the package that causes concerns regarding his electability. For example his judgmental brand of social conservatism – and some of his kookier public statements – have the potential to severely limit his potential appeal.
Don’t get us wrong, Bright has done an excellent job building a network of support for his Senate bid among South Carolina Tea Party groups – and has effectively built on his existing recognizability as a State Senator. He’s also acquitted himself well in early interviews and on the stump. Meanwhile Mace – his top opponent – has chosen to focus almost exclusively on fundraising up to this point in the race, selectively scheduling campaign stops and media appearances so that she can devote most of her time to making phone calls to prospective donors.
Mace supporters insist “dialing for dollars” is the only way to beat Graham, even as her critics have mocked her for running a “stealth grassroots campaign.”
So which bet – Bright’s aggressiveness on the stump or Mace’s monetary focus – will pay dividends?
We’ll find out soon … but our belief is that Bright’s early momentum (even if he survives his disclosure debacle later this month) is simply not sustainable.
UPDATE: Boom …