S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley praised U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in an interview Thursday but stopped short of a formal endorsement.
Republican Haley’s praise came a day after U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of Charleston passed twice on saying whether he would endorse Graham, his fellow Republican U.S. senator from South Carolina, during an appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire.”
“I have made it very clear I am not going to be involved in any South Carolina races,” Haley told CNN’s Peter Hamby Thursday while at a Republican Governors Association meeting in Arizona.
“But I want to say this: On any issue that I have had to deal with Lindsey on, whether it was the NLRB issue, whether it was voter ID, whether it’s been on the fight that we’ve had with Obamacare or whether its been fighting for our businesses in South Carolina, Lindsey has dropped everything to help with those fights,” she said. “And so, for that, I’m very grateful for him.”
Haley declined to say whether her support was an endorsement, Hamby wrote.
“It’s my answer,” she said.
Graham, who has $7 million to spend on his re-election campaign, faces four underfunded challengers from the GOP’s Tea Party-libertarian wing in the June primary. Those challengers say Graham, who has a reputation as a Washington dealmaker, is not conservative enough.
Tea Party favorite Scott, who was 1st District congressman until Haley appointed him to the U.S. Senate after Republican Jim DeMint’s resignation, has never run for a statewide office.
Asked Wednesday whether he would support Graham, Scott said: “You know, as you three have heard recently, I am up for ... re-election myself. I’m going to make sure that Tim Scott gets out (of the GOP primary). ... I’m going to allow for all the other folks on the ballot to represent themselves very well, and I’m going to continue to work hard for my re-election.”
“No endorsement for Lindsey Graham tonight?” CNN’s Van Jones asked again.
Scott replied: “I’m certainly going to work really hard for Tim Scott(’s) re-election — gotta win first.”
Longtime S.C. Republican consultant Chip Felkel of Greenville does not make much of Haley’s praise for Graham or Scott’s refusal to say whether he would endorse the Seneca Republican.
“Scott’s new to the game, wants to be friends with everybody (and is) trying to get off on the right foot,” said Felkel.
Of Haley’s comments, Felkel said, “That’s about as close to an endorsement — without giving an endorsement — as you can get.”
But, Felkel added, “Endorsements are overblown anyway.”
Reach Self at (803) 771-8658.