As an independent …
A possible Senate bid is one of the three main lines of speculation surrounding Sanford, who seems to be contemplating some sort of political comeback following his defeat in last spring’s GOP primary for the Palmetto State’s first congressional district.
The other two possibilities Sanford is reportedly mulling are an independent campaign for the congressional seat he lost last spring … or a third party bid for president (the campaign that eluded him back in 2012 following his first fall from grace).
But it is the prospect of a U.S. Senate campaign that has Democrats salivating, as they believe it could spell serious trouble for Graham – a fiscally liberal chameleon who is opportunistically clinging to a newfound “alliance” with his former rival, U.S. president Donald Trump.
Graham’s conveniently harmonious relationship with Trump ahead of his 2020 reelection bid likely makes him unbeatable in a Republican primary, but if a high profile independent were to jump into the race against him it could cause problems for the incumbent in a general election.
Despite the transparent nature of his “alliance” with Trump, Graham has successfully reversed his political positioning over the past year-and-a-half – ostensibly shedding his #NeverTrump establishment GOP roots via his passionate defense of centrist U.S. supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh. Once a pariah with the conservative base, the politician once known as former U.S. president Barack Obama’s “best GOP ally” has become a hero with the hard right.
But this “heroism” has come at a cost elsewhere along the state’s political spectrum. Once a favorite of Palmetto State Democrats, Graham has now become persona non gratis with perpetual minority party – and is viewed less favorably by independents.
Several months ago, we addressed Graham’s potential vulnerability in the upcoming election cycle, concluding that Democrats had an opportunity to defeat him if they targeted their resources on a general election campaign of segmentation and suppression within the GOP ranks.
Divide and conquer, if you will …
Are they doing that? No.
“So far, Democrats have failed to exploit this segmentation and suppression strategy,” we wrote. “Or even attempt it. Instead, they have devoted their resources exclusively toward turning out their own voters – of which there are insufficient numbers to win at the statewide level (at least for the foreseeable future).”
Could Sanford be the key to an effective Democratic “divide and conquer” campaign?
Probably not …
We believe Sanford has the potential to wreak havoc on the first district race – and he would obviously be an intriguing and well-publicized novelty at the national level. But his statewide appeal is decidedly limited. We simply don’t see him pulling enough GOP votes away from Graham to make a difference in the outcome of that race – assuming it were a three-way battle.
Also, political calculus aside we simply don’t see Sanford running against Graham considering they are longtime personal friends and Graham is the godfather of Sanford’s youngest son. Despite their stated ideological differences, the two Palmetto politicians have never been publicly at odds – let alone looking to campaign against each other.
Bottom line? Democrats still have plenty of time (and ought to be able to appropriate sufficient resources) toward waging a successful divide and conquer strategy against Graham.
We just don’t see any way Sanford factors into that strategy …
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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