AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) isn’t one of the most staunch Republicans out there. Often teamed with the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Graham’s reputation has been that of a wishy-washy Republican who is just as likely to side with the Democrats as with his own party.
And that’s being generous to Graham. Some would argue he’s more Democrat than GOP.
Or, they would have.
Lately, Graham has been fired up and blasting away, earning some serious kudos along the way. However, he’s also set to trot out a red flag bill. The question some are asking is whether that will hurt him with his base?
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham supports laws to temporarily revoke guns from people who might harm themselves or others, and he’s working on legislation that would give grants to states that pass such statutes.
It’s a controversial position among gun rights advocates, but the South Carolina Republican’s not worried about alienating his base.
“Not my base,” he said of his opponents of this issue, adding they are the “the fringe of the fringe.
“I think most Americans believe that multiple murderers shouldn’t have gun rights. Most Americans support background checks,” Graham continued. “The Second Amendment’s important to me, but it’s not a suicide pact.”
That Graham can talk this way about his constituents is a sign of his confidence in his standing in South Carolina — which explains how he can work on a hot-button social issue that once might have carried too much risk.
A few years ago, Graham was expected to have a 2020 primary challenger. Now, fewer South Carolinians doubt his commitment to conservatism. Between his rallying defense of embattled Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his continued alliance with President Donald Trump, Graham is enjoying popularity with his base, possibly like never before.
According to a March 2019 survey from Winthrop University, Graham has a 74% approval rating among South Carolina Republicans. Compare that to October 2013, when Graham’s support among the state’s GOP was at 45%.
All of that may be true, but approval numbers can be finicky things. They can be good one day and awful the next.
And yes, a red flag bill may be enough to send them spiraling.
A lot will depend on the red flag bill in question. Most people outside of the die-hard gun rights crowd like the idea of taking guns away from people who may represent a danger to themselves or others. They don’t see a problem with it, and whether gun rights activists do or not doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters is what the majority of the voters think.
While most Republicans support the Second Amendment, they’re not absolutist about it.
However, opposition to red flag laws transcends the gun rights crowd. A lot of it hinges on due process concerns within the bills we’ve seen. So far, none addresses either that or the potential for abuse of such laws.
Should Graham’s bill address those concerns adequately, then it’s unlikely to hurt his reelection bid in the least.
If it shouldn’t, however, then things could get ugly for Graham. Frankly, if he trots out another red flag bill as we’ve seen in so many states, he deserves it, and no fiery defense of Justice Brett Kavanaugh will change that.
That’s something for the senator to keep in mind.