The South Carolina primary is less than a week away, and this analysis of Lee Bright is the next to the last article in my series analyzing the Graham challengers.Â This articleÂ is based on the criteria in my previous post, â€œWhat we need in a Graham challenger.â€
1. Prior political victories – “A+”
In my original post, I said:
Before David ever took on Goliath, he had fought â€“ and killed â€“ a lion and a bear. If you want to take on a candidate like Lindsey Graham, you need to have some victories under your belt.
Lee Bright is the only candidate running who meets this qualification. He was elected to theÂ South Carolina Senate in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. So, his electability isn’t a theory – it’s a fact, proven multiple times in the face of some nasty attacks.
Since he has served as a legislator already, we have a voting record to measure his rhetoric against. In the 2013 SC Club for Growth scorecard, Bright was one of only three Senators to score an A+. The latest scorecard released by the Palmetto Liberty PAC ranked Bright at the top of the Senate.
Bright is known in the Senate for his readiness – even eagerness – to make waves fighting for liberty. When he said once at an event, “If you think Ted Cruz made a splash in the Senate, just wait till Lee Bright gets there.”, we know he’s telling the truth because that’s exactlyÂ what he’s doneÂ in the State Senate:
Finally, his experience in the State Senate means he’s not going to have to learn basic legislative hardball if he’s elected to the US Senate. It takes a lotÂ of skill to be effective in legislative politics. The US Senate is a whole different ball game from the State Senate, but Bright’s years of experience considerably lessens the learning curve.
2. Broad support base – “B”
My observation is that Bright has the most widespread appeal of any of the candidates. His strength is in the Tea Party crowd, but a lot of people just seem to like his blunt, straightforward, fiery message and sense of humor.
Additionally, his record seems to help a lot. The polls seem to bear this out, with the latest poll showing Bright six points ahead of his nearest competitor. Certainly, 9% support opposed to Graham’s 49% is a major uphill battle, but the goal at this point is to force aÂ runoff.
3. Enemies – “A+”
If the Lindsey Graham moderates don’t hate Lee Bright, it’s not his fault. Bright pulls no punches criticizing the liberal record and corrupt policies of Congress in general, and Graham in particular. Most of the other challengers do really well at this, but Bright holds the record with hard, straight shooting.
Will moderates be turned off by all this “polarizing” rhetoric? Yes, very likely. And that’s a good thing. Moderates are Graham’s home crowd and the more they hate Bright the more effective a challenger Bright will be.
4. Fundraising ability – “D”
Bright has really struggled with fundraising. As of May 21st, he’s raised $193,907, significantly less thanÂ the other candidates and far short ofÂ Graham’s $7 million war chest.
Bright doesn’t have large personal resources to invest, and he doesn’t appear to have a large network of wealthy donors. I’m not sure why this is, as I’d have thought his years in the Senate would have built his donor list. He’s not a successful businessman, which may also have a lot to do with it.
5. Humility – “A”
As I’ve said in nearly every article in this series, one of the most telling marks of humility in a political candidate is the willingness to let someone else do the job, as long as the job gets done. Bright has exemplified this attitude, more so than anyone else.
There were rumors that he might run for months after others had entered the race, and many were actually getting irritated that he wouldn’t go ahead and declare. The reason for this seeming ambivalence was that he was waiting to see if someone more qualified was going to enter the race. When they didn’t, he decided to throw his own hat in.
It may seem like pride to see oneself as the most qualified candidate, but there’s a huge difference between an honest evaluation of qualifications and a superman complex. Unlike Bowers, Bright doesn’t see himself as God’s gift to the electorate. When IÂ grilled himÂ on the phone not long after he declared, he was very alive to the possibility that others might make a better candidate than he, and he didn’t seem to care at all who won as long as someone good ousted Graham.
He was also one of the three who signed the pledge to support whoever went to the runoff against Graham.
6. A Clean Record – “C”
Bright, as I mentioned under #4, has had enormous business failures. When he filed to run, he reported that he was at least $1.4 million in debt as a result of his failed trucking company. This is something he’s been attacked on, and certainly when you’re running for office, you want business success on your resume, not failure.
However, Bright is handling it really well. He’s been really open and upfront about it, discussing the mistakes he made as well as the impact of Federal regulations and policy on the industry. If handled right, these kinds of stories can actually be turned into an asset.
Bright is certainly handling the narrative well, emphasizing the fact that a lot of the pressures he faced were the result of harmful Federal policies and his own desire to protect other business ownersÂ from theÂ governmental flak his industry suffered under.
7. Fortitude and Endurance – “A”
One benefit of having runÂ before is that you know more what you’re getting into, and what they are going to throw at you. When I spoke with him not long after he entered the race, he predicted the kind of attacks he would get, because he’d gotten them all before in previous races.
Also, his deliberate slowness to get into the race point to the fact that he knew what he was getting into and was prepared to go the distance. And that is exactly what he’s doing. From all appearances his family has beenÂ extremely supportive and they present a united front. None of them seemsÂ to have been fazed at all by the rigors and attacks of the campaign trail.
While all of the qualifications listed above are important, the two most important ones for me are prior experience and humility.
At the end of the day, weÂ don’t need to make an educated guess about what we’d be getting in a new Senator. We need to know. For other seats this isn’t that big a deal, but for the US Senate it’s absolutely vital. We need to know that the candidate’s votes will match his campaign rhetoric, that heÂ can hold to principle under pressure, and that he is able to do the job effectively.
The reason humility is so important is because, more than any other word, it encompasses the character and grounding we need in our elected officials. Personal ambition and glory-seeking on the front lines, even if combined with the right political philosophy, is very dangerous. We need statesmen with servants’ hearts, who are in it because it needs to be done, and who don’t care who does it or gets the creditÂ as long as it gets done. And, who will be ready to go home and live in happy obscurity as soon as the country no longer needs them.
Lee Bright scores well in most of the other areas, but he is the only candidate in the race that absolutely knocks these two qualifications out of the park with flying colors. For this reason, I will be casting my vote for Lee Bright.