Friday, October 26, 2007

Bush Plans S.C. Visit

Trip to Columbia will raise funds for Graham's re-election bid.

The State reports:

President Bush will come to Columbia next week for a high-roller fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham as the first-term Republican officially launches his 2008 re-election campaign.

Bush will keynote a minimum $250-a-plate barbecue luncheon Nov. 2 at the posh home of Columbia City Councilman Kirkman Finlay III, who owns a cattle and hay farm off Garners Ferry Road near Fort Jackson.

Neither Graham nor the White House would confirm Bush’s visit, but McClatchy Newspapers obtained the invitation going out to hundreds of GOP stalwarts around the state.

Highlighting Bush as the “featured guest,” the invitation offers several levels of access to the president and Graham.

Guests contributing at least $10,000 per couple will get their photo taken with Bush, while those donating at least $5,000 will be photographed with Graham.

McClatchy Newspapers also obtained an e-mail from Shell Suber, political director of Graham’s campaign, to GOP county chairmen, seeking volunteers to help organize the Bush fund-raiser and enjoy “a terrific opportunity to be part of a (sic) historic event.”

Bush has attended fundraisers in Charleston and Greenville, but his appearance in Columbia will be his first fund-raising visit to the state capital since becoming president in 2001.

Graham, who lives in Seneca, has more than $4 million in his campaign coffers and faces no major opposition from either party to date.

“President Bush is very popular in South Carolina, particularly among Republicans,” Graham said. “If he were to come in support of my campaign, it would be very helpful and I would be honored. I look forward to hopefully having him come to South Carolina and stand by my side.”

Graham said he is not nervous about his re-election prospects in the wake of his high-profile support earlier this year for immigration reforms that enraged many GOP activists in South Carolina and beyond.

“I’m going to be judged by what I’ve done for six years, not on one issue,” Graham said. “I think most people in South Carolina appreciate having a senator who will speak his mind and stand up and be counted on the hard issues.”

Rick Beltran, chairman of the Spartanburg County Republican Party, said anger over Graham’s support for giving illegal immigrants legal status has ebbed in his area.

Graham had an approval rating of 55 percent in a recent poll of likely Spartanburg GOP voters, Beltran said, up from 41 percent in June.

“I’m pretty high on Senator Graham,” Beltran said.

But Beltran’s counterpart in nearby Greenville, Samuel Harms, said he wouldn’t attend the fundraiser next week.

“We’re 10 percent of the Republican vote in South Carolina,” Harms said. “I think it’s important that people believe that the chairman isn’t playing favorites with one candidate over another. We do have a contested election.”

Tim Carnes of Greenville and John Cina of Summerville have announced GOP primary challenges against Graham. Gary McLeod, a perennial candidate for the 6th Congressional District, also has expressed interest. Neither Carnes nor Cina has held elective office nor raised significant campaign funds.

Joe Erwin, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said Wednesday he wouldn’t run against Graham. No other Democrat has stepped forward.

The Greenville County GOP executive committee passed a “resolution of censure” of Graham in August because of his support for immigration reforms.

Harms said the censure measure has led Graham to support stiffer immigration measures, such as his legislation the Senate recently passed, which provides $3 billion to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The Greenville County Republican Party probably had a significant influence on Lindsey Graham changing course,” Harms said. “America is a better place because of what we did.”