GOP operatives see little concern in Lindsey Graham's poll numbers

Published: Apr. 18, 2013 at 8:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2013 at 8:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has been a thorn in the side of the White House on major issues including Benghazi and gun violence.

That should help the state's senior senator shore up his support from conservatives, but is it working?

New numbers from the Winthrop Poll released this week suggest Graham's approval rating in GOP circles has dropped significantly.

The poll shows Graham with backing from 57.5 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

That's a plunge from the senator's 71.6 percent rating in February, though some party regulars, like veteran GOP operative Tony Denny, question the findings.

"He took some attacks from some outside special interest groups on some TV stations that went unanswered for a period, so that could explain a little bit of the drop, but I am very unsure that the numbers he's showing," said Denny. "They're not consistent with what we're seeing among his strong support around the state among Republicans and conservatives."

Graham has been under fire for years from the most conservative elements of his party. His stand on immigration reform described by some as "Grahamnesty."

But he has still been able to fill his re-election war chest with nearly $5.4 million as of this week, with more than a million collected in the first quarter alone. That's second among GOP senators only to Kentucky's Mitch McConnell.

"If it was me, that'd be five million reasons why I wouldn't want to run against him," said GOP National Committee representative Glenn McCall. "Whoever challenges him -- seriously tries to oppose him -- are going to have to have plenty of money in their war chest, and as you know, being a student of South Carolina politics, money rules the day."

Graham's campaign manager says the campaign does not comment on poll numbers. Asked about Graham's potential primary challengers, manager Scott Farmer told us it is customary for South Carolina Republican candidates to have them.

He says Graham looks forward to a "spirited campaign."

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