This hasn’t been a good week for Senator John McCain and his pal Senator Lindsey Graham. After McCain’s stronger showing at the 2nd debate, his campaign was on the rebound. The timing of this announced deal on “comprehensive immigration reform” couldn’t be any worse for him, and standing next to Ted Kennedy and Arlen Specter talking about how wonderful bi-partisan deals are isn’t the best way to win over that already suspicious conservative base. It’s a great example of how out of touch with the conservative base McCain is, and how out of touch our senators and congresspeople are that they would not realize that there would be strong opposition to this immigration proposal. Here in South Carolina, we had an chance to voice that opposition directly to one of the senators responsible for trying to push this proposal through before we have a chance to examine it carefully.
I give Senator Graham credit for being willing to show up on Saturday at the South Carolina Republican convention and attempt to explain why he supports this legislation. But I believe he’s wrong on this, and so do most of the conservatives in attendance Saturday. That’s why he got such a negative reaction. Some of them consider this issue so important that there has been talk of finding a primary challenger for him when he’s up for re-election next year. I’m not ready to sign on to that effort just yet, but that’s how seriously Republicans here take this issue. I emailed Senator Graham Thursday to let him know that I was opposed to this bill, and I must not have been the only one, because he was noticeably on the defensive Saturday. He shouldn’t act so surprised that we booed him when he tried to convince us that this was the best deal we could get on immigration. If he didn’t completely understand the extent of our opposition when he walked into that convention hall, he understands it now.
We can also credit the comprehensive immigration bill with doing two other things: causing a minor scuffle between our senators Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham and providing an opportunity for Romney to indirectly hammer McCain, which he did. Senator DeMint, to his credit, has called for further review of this bill and wasn’t afraid to challenge supporters like Senator Graham directly in his remarks to the convention. That made for some awkward moments, since DeMint spoke right after Graham. On some levels, it is unfair to tag John McCain and Lindsey Graham as RINOs or apostates simply because they defend this flawed legislation. On most issues of importance to South Carolinians, they are two of the most reliable conservative votes. However, the problem with illegal immigration is one we take very seriously. We see the lack of border enforcement now, and we can’t help but notice that only lip service is paid to current laws. Supporters of this bill may very well be correct that there are penalties for law-breakers in this immigration bill, but when current law is not being followed, how can we possibly believe the government is up to the challenge of enforcing all these new restrictions? The short answer is: we don’t.
Another interesting sidebar to the South Carolina Republican convention was the interesting division of presidential candidate support among the leadership in our state party. Our state treasurer is supporting Rudy and gave this rambling, somewhat incoherent speech explaining his support. (Not surprisingly, he ran out of time…) Lindsey Graham, as we are well aware, is supporting McCain and gave a speech on his behalf at the convention. The Romney supporters are many, including the former chairman of the York County Republicans and Senator DeMint, who spoke on behalf of Romney at the convention. Not that Romney needed much help Saturday…
Romney read the mood of the assembled delegates perfectly. He knew exactly what we wanted to hear, and hit all the right targets in his speech. The immigration debate was front and center, and he took full advantage of the opportunity to take an indirect shot at McCain. The rest of his remarks were familiar and part of his standard stump speech, but it had a more passionate feel to it than any other time I’ve heard him speak. Apparently quite a few delegates liked what they heard as well, because over 400 of them showed up at his meet-and-greet after the convention.
It should be no secret which candidate I’m leaning toward right now, but I haven’t committed to anyone yet, and I’m not likely to do that any time soon. There’s still time for the rest of the field to change my mind, but I don’t think that they will. 🙂