Who would you rather run against?
A.) A two-term incumbent U.S. senator with more than $6.5 million in his campaign account who is a regular on the Sunday morning talk-show circuit.
B.) A politician who never has run for statewide office and was appointed to the U.S. Senate in a state where no one ever has won an election after being appointed.
For S.C. Republicans, the answer oddly is A – U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Filing for Graham’s Senate seat does not open until March, but the Seneca Republican already has attracted three opponents for the June 2014 GOP primary plus one Democratic challenger.
Meanwhile, no Republicans even are considering running against Tim Scott, South Carolina’s other U.S. senator, appointed in December by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley to replace Jim DeMint, who resigned to run the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
“I will never run against Tim for anything. Ever. Period,” said U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, one of the five people on Haley’s short-list to replace DeMint last year.
“He will be re-elected,” said former state Attorney General Henry McMaster, a 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate who also was on Haley’s short list to replace DeMint. “I’m excited to support him.”
After meeting with state tourism officials at the State Museum Monday, Scott laughed off questions about any potential challengers in 2014, when he will be on the ballot with Graham and Haley.
“I don’t want to encourage anybody to do anything they haven’t already done, therefore I’m going to pretend that question wasn’t even asked,” Scott said. “(I’ve heard) a couple of state senators on the Democratic side (might run), as well as a couple of folks who are to the right of me, which I think is a cousin of Attila the Hun, but I’m not sure.”
Scott, 47, has reason to be in a good mood.
He raised more than $1 million in each of his first two fundraising quarters since his appointment to the Senate, leaving him with $2.5 million to spend in 2014. And last month, veteran GOP political strategist Richard Quinn polled Scott’s favorability numbers, finding more than 60 percent of likely S.C. Republican primary voters approve of Scott.
“At least on the Republican side, it would be kind of a suicidal course to take” to oppose Scott, Quinn said.
State Republican Party leaders say they like Scott for what he represents: The nation’s only African-American senator is a Republican from South Carolina, a state often criticized for its racist past. But with Scott, state Republicans have an example of diversity, along with Haley, the state’s first female governor and the daughter of Indian immigrants, and Glenn McCall, one of three African-Americans on the Republican National Committee.
“Tim Scott is the future of the Republican Party. In fact, South Carolina is, in our minds, Ground Zero for the Republican Party of the future,” said Matt Moore, the state Republican Party chairman. “The future Republican Party is young, diverse, vibrant, and Tim Scott sort of embodies that.”
Does that mean state party officials have warned other Republicans not to challenge Scott in next summer’s primary election?
“We tend not to do those sorts of things,” Moore said. “But I shout from the rooftops anywhere I go about what a great senator and what an outstanding person Tim Scott is.”
While Scott has fended off Republican challengers, he likely will face a Democratic challenger.
New S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jamie Harrison has promised to field candidates for every contest, and he has a strong potential U.S. Senate candidate in Rick Wade. Wade, who is also African-American, has experience running for statewide office, losing to Republican Mark Hammond in 2002 in a race for secretary of state. But Wade also knows how to win an election, having worked as a senior advisor to President Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns.
“I could offer some solutions to get South Carolina on the path for prosperity,” Wade said. “The issues that matter to everybody in South Carolina ... create some jobs across the state and getting our schools in line and focusing on education. I’m not sure what Tim’s record is on those kinds of things. I’m just sort of thinking through an agenda and vision that if I do decide to run, there is a way to get the job done.”
Scott told reporters Monday that it is still too early to talk about any potential challengers. Instead, Scott, who formerly represented the state’s coastal 1st District in Congress, said he still is introducing himself to S.C. voters, having visited 42 of the state’s 46 counties.
“We are going to continue to be in state and available for people to talk to, yell at or say hello to,” Scott said. “So my objective is to be as available and accessible as possible, so people have a real opportunity to understand what makes me tick and how I can serve them.”
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.