Unable To Gain Traction, Lindsey Graham Outlines Why Trump Is So Bad For The Republican Party Brand
by KAY STEIGER –
In an appearance on CNN, Republican presidential candidate and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham explained his rival Donald Trump’s appeal among primary voters as something actually bad for the party. In response to a CNN host asking Graham about the New York businessman outpolling him by 26 points in his own state, he challenged him directly, “Come to South Carolina and I’ll beat his brains out. I know my state. This is a silly season in politics.”
Graham appeared frustrated himself by the Monmouth University poll numbers released on Tuesday, which showed Trump solidly in first place at 30 percent. Graham, who has struggled to gain much traction in the race, gained just 4 percent support among likely Republican voters in South Carolina.
But Graham raised some concerns about the narrowing electorate appeal that have bubbling among the Republican establishment since their pounding in the 2008 and 2012 presidential election years. In the same breath that Graham challenged Trump to a physical altercation, he also pointed to ways that his candidacy is hurting the Republican brand among key constituencies.
“There’s 30 percent of my primary electorate that believes that Obama is a Muslim, that he was born in Kenya, and that would deport everybody. They’re frustrated. I’m just saying that the policies that Mr. Trump is proposing are demagoguery. His approach to describing illegal immigrants are hurting us with Hispanics. The way he attacks women is going to be a death blow to the future of our party,” Graham warned.
Indeed, this is a concern that the Republican National Committee leaders expressed in an “autopsy report” they issued in the aftermath of the 2012 election. At the time, they wrote, “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters.”
They went on to remark on women voters: “There is growing unrest within the community of Republican women frustrated by the Party’s negative image among women, and the women who participated in our listening sessions contributed many constructive ideas of ways to improve our brand with women throughout the country and grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party.”
Instead, Republican candidates seem to be competing to see who can be the most extreme on the basic constitutional right of birthright citizenship (ironically, something their own party fought a bloody civil war to enact more than 150 years ago), who can be the most dismissive of the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter, and who can defund Planned Parenthood the fastest. Whatever the party’s intentions in releasing that document, they appear to have made a firm about-face on trying to appeal to constituencies broader than its core of older white male voters.
This is a dangerous strategy. There’s already evidence that white supremacists — including former KKK leader David Duke — are finding Trump to be the “best of the lot.” Two men from Boston also claimed they were “inspired” by Trump to beat up a homeless Latino man. And even though Republicans argued voters were “tired” of hearing about the “war on women” in 2014, pollingfollowing the election suggests otherwise and that the GOP’s wins were mostly due to a disproportionate number of Republicans voting on Election Day.
Party officials seem to be aware of Trump’s problematic draw. RNC Chair Reince Priebus quietly told Trump to “tone down” his anti-immigrant rhetoric shortly after his announcement and state-level officials in Virginia and North Carolina are seeking ways to keep Trump off the ballot. Now, it seems Graham is becoming more direct about Trump’s threat to the party’s brand.
But that’s not to say that Graham doesn’t have problems of his own. He also critiqued Trump’s strategy in the Middle East in that same interview on CNN: “To say that you’re going to go to Iraq and Syria and take their oil and use it for our benefit as a way to destroy ISIL is insanely dangerous. You’re going to turn everybody into the Middle East against America if you do that, you won’t destroy ISIL.”