Conventional wisdom in Palmetto politics has long held that congressman Ralph Norman – who has represented South Carolina’s fifth district in the U.S. House of Representatives since June 2017 – would be running for governor in 2026.
Norman is a wealthy real estate developer/ crony capitalist who fashions himself as a leader of the S.C. Freedom Caucus. In fact, he has been billed as the caucus’ prospective gubernatorial nominee – even though he has routinely lacked the courage of his convictions in Washington, D.C.
This week, though, Norman threw the 2026 campaign calculus for a loop when he announced on a phone call with a reporter that he was going to challenge incumbent “Republican” U.S. senator Lindsey Graham instead.
Ever the flip-flopper, though, Norman quickly clarified his comment saying he was “highly considering” running against Graham.
“I’m tired of Lindsey,” Norman said on the call, according to Soellner. “He’s the one who got us into this spending spree.”
First elected to the Senate in 2002, Graham received only token GOP opposition in 2020 – yet he still managed to underperform in that primary election. That fall, Graham received his first credible general election opponent – although the death of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg nationalized the election and afforded Graham a starring (albeit hypocritical) role in the confirmation of new U.S. supreme court justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Thanks to those developments, Graham wound up trouncing Democratic nominee Jaime Harrison – drawing 54.4 percent of the vote to Harrison’s 44.2 percent.
As for Norman, he narrowly won a GOP primary to fill the seat vacated by former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney – and then narrowly survived a Democratic challenge in the June 2017 special election.
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Would Norman be a better option? It’s hard to imagine this seat occupied by a less consistent “Republican,” but Norman has given Graham a run for his money when it comes to being an opportunistic political weather vane. For example, he was all about opposing California moderate Kevin McCarthy‘s bid for speaker of the House earlier this year – until it was clear such a move would guarantee for him a well-funded primary challenger.
That prompted Norman to flip-flop and support McCarthy – even though he previously said he would sooner “vote for Mickey Mouse” for speaker.
McCarthy also adopted conflicting views in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 rioting at the U.S. Capitol. Publicly, he endorsed “a peaceful transition” of power to the administration of Joe Biden. Privately, he urged former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to convince Trump to impose “Marshall Law” on the country.
(W)e are at a point of no return in saving our Republic!!” Norman wrote in his text message to Meadows. “Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!”
Assuming Norman ultimately decides to run against Graham, we might as well call this the “shape-shifter” primary – because both of these politicians will put on clinics as chameleons.
I’ve often said South Carolina deserves better than Lindsey Graham … but it can also do better than Ralph Norman when it comes to replacing him. Also word to the wise, Freedom Caucus members: Having a self-dealing, corporate welfare advocate as your standard-bearer – either for governor or U.S. Senate – kind of cuts against that whole freedom and free markets shtick.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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