What we need in a Graham Challenger

What to look for in Lindsey Graham's challenger
A Senate seat awaits the candidate who can pull the sword out of the stone!

Now that candidates are lining up to challenge Graham in the next primary, it’s time to look for the candidate that we all need to coalesce behind.

Here are seven characteristics that an effective challenger for Graham will need. I’ll be posting an analysis of each of the declared candidates based on these characteristics in the weeks ahead.

1. Prior political victories

Before David ever took on Goliath, he had fought – and killed – 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.

It helps to have run for an office before, but you need to actually win and serve. Here’s why:

  • You get name recognition
  • You get some real-life experience in turning your positions into actual policy (real life is always going to be a bit different than theory)
  • You hone your legislative skills (to be an effective legislator, you need skills at public speaking, customer service, communicating, negotiating, legislative process, reading and evaluating policy on a huge scale)
  • You get a record that possible constituents can look at
  • You get contacts who can help you in future elections

It takes skill to run a good campaign. It takes more skill to win. It takes even more skill to actually serve. And the candidate who runs against Graham needs all three.

2. Broad support base

No candidate will win the support of every single demographic. But if only one group of people supports a candidate, that’s a red flag.

A Graham challenger needs to be able to win support from small businesses, homeschool moms, elderly voters, lawyers, military personnel, etc. He/she will need to be appealing to people, not the kind who will turn voters off.

There’s not enough of any one single demographic to elect anyone. And a candidate who has a diverse support base is going to be a more well-rounded candidate.

3. Enemies

Just as the candidate needs to be able to attract fairly diverse support, he/she also needs to be able to attract enemies.

People didn’t really hate Mitt Romney, for the same reasons no one really loved him. Don’t look for someone who won’t make anyone mad. A candidate that no one thinks is worth hating is also a candidate not worth getting excited about.

And the challenger of Lindsey Graham needs to excite people. (Of course, who those enemies are will say a lot about the candidate, so pay attention to that too.)

4. Fundraising ability

Like it or no, it takes money to run a successful election. Lindsey Graham has a huge war chest and won’t  be afraid to use it.

The temptation is for candidates to start talking about David’s five stones and sling, and Gideon’s three hundred. But I’ve helped with enough underdog campaigns to know that a handful of homeschoolers and Tea Partiers and enough money to print out a campaign “newspaper” won’t get anyone elected.

We need a candidate who can find big donors and woo them. This takes connections (see point #1), diplomacy skills, and willingness to sit down and call people until the job is done.

5. Humility

It’s very easy to go for the prominent battles. Like the 1st-century British barbarians, the tendency is to push and shove your way to the front lines. It takes humility to care more about the job getting done than who ends up doing it.

Also, if a candidate doesn’t have a record of service in lower seats, that can be a red flag. It’s not necessarily wrong to “go for the gold” as soon as you enter politics, but the human tendency to go for the flashy, exciting roles as much as possible is really just selfishness and pride.

The candidate we need to support is the candidate who would be more than willing to drop out and support an opponent who has a better chance.

6. A Clean Record

If Lindsey Graham’s challenger has any skeletons in his/her closet, all of South Carolina will eventually find out about them.

This doesn’t mean that the candidate needs to be perfect. No one is perfect, at all. Many candidates have taken ugly mistakes out of their past and turned them into a positive part of their messages. The key is, who is controlling the narrative regarding that mistake?

If there is any sort of inconsistency, or shady/unethical dealings, behavior or connections in the past that the candidate isn’t saying anything about, that’s gold to the Graham campaign.

7. Fortitude and Endurance

Politics is always an ugly game. It is much uglier when you’re taking on the establishment and upsetting the apple cart.

Graham is powerful and has a lot of connections.  These kind of politicians have it within their power to make life miserable for anyone they have a grudge against. Would Graham? I don’t know. But if I thought he was principled, I wouldn’t be so anxious to oust him.

And it goes without saying that the campaign trail will be very grueling. Ask Sarah Palin, Nikki Haley, and Herman Cain. If your opponent can’t find any dirt on you, they will make stuff up and send you and your family through the wringer.

The candidate who we support against Graham needs to have fully counted the cost, and his/her family needs to be fully on board and prepared for what will likely come.