A runoff is the wild card.
But it may still be a challenge for Graham to get the 50% he needs in the primary to avoid a runoff, and generating a runoff in which all the anti-Graham vote could coalesce, has been the strategy all along.
Politico has essentially called challenges to Graham dead on arrival, How Lindsey Graham outmaneuvered the tea party:
Sen. Lindsey Graham recognized the threat years before it had a chance to form — and knew immediately what he had to do….
Graham’s deft maneuvering shows why he’s become the dominant political figure in this deeply red state and is skating to another six years even as he’s angered the base on immigration and other hot-button issues. Far from pandering to the party’s tea party wing in order to get reelected, he’s challenging it head-on: Graham warns that the GOP is caught in a “death spiral” with minorities, says it needs to get real about climate change and defends his move to open debate on gun control legislation after a school massacre.
His legwork to protect his seat could serve as a model for other endangered incumbents looking to fend off more conservative challengers….
Even as he cruises in the polls, the senator has blanketed the state with more than $1 million worth of ads promoting his work. He faces several lesser-known, underfunded candidates — including state Sen. Lee Bright, pastor Det Bowers, businessman Richard Cash, attorney Bill Connor, attorney Benjamin Dunn and Nancy Mace, a consultant and the first female graduate from The Citadel military college — in the June 10 primary.
They’re trying to keep Graham under 50 percent and trigger a runoff, which would give Republican outside groups that have sat out the race a chance to rally behind a single candidate and potentially hurt Graham.
But his opponents have not demonstrated much viability. One of them even credited Graham with ensuring a lackluster GOP field….
Soon after helping his close friend John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008, as the tea party began to show its strength in 2010, Graham began preparing for what an aide called “Armageddon.” He enlisted an army of paid staff and volunteers — including some 5,200 precinct captains — to help build six regional offices throughout the state.
And he amassed a staggering war chest, aimed partly at scaring off prospective opponents. Many donors have been reluctant to give money to anyone but Graham for fear they will be blacklisted by the senior senator, his adversaries said. And some big-dollar contributors are starting to put money behind a Graham-allied super PAC created by a former state party chairman, Katon Dawson.
Is it really over before it really has begun?
I long ago ceased trying to predict South Carolina politics. But it seems to me that the world could change quickly if Graham gets into a runoff.
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