U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will take to the airwaves this week with an endorsement from one of the least popular figures in politics, at least according to national polls.
A TV commercial showing Graham and President Bush will start airing across South Carolina on Monday or Tuesday, Graham announced during a York County Republican Club meeting Friday night. The two men filmed the ad when Bush visited Columbia in November.
"I am not running away from my president," Graham told 150 listeners at Thursday's Too restaurant. "You need to stand with him because he's doing a good job."
A majority of Americans disagree. Bush's approval rating stands at 32 percent, according to Real Clear Politics, which takes an average of several national polls to reach its findings.
Elsewhere in the country, moderate Republican candidates are downplaying their ties to Bush and casting themselves as independent thinkers.
That Graham is eager to tie himself to the president offers another sign of South Carolina's deepening conservative bent. Two-thirds of GOP voters who took part in the S.C. presidential primary have positive feelings about the Bush administration, exit polls showed.
The ad, which will talk about what Graham has done to help Bush advance his agenda, also indicates the senator's top priority: Shoring up the Republican base. Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride and Columbia orthodontist Buddy Witherspoon are challenging Graham in the primary. Both are Republicans.
"I have disagreed with the president in the past," Graham said in Rock Hill. "But he has had more challenges than any president since World War II, and I think he's done a heckuva job."
During his visit to Columbia, Bush attended a fundraiser that garnered more than $450,000 for Graham's campaign, with another $150,000 going to the S.C. Republican Party. All told, Graham has raised more than $4 million in campaign cash.
Touting conservative values
Left unsaid during a 20-minute talk was the issue that threatened Graham's re-election prospects for brief time last year: Illegal immigration.
Graham took heavy criticism from conservatives for supporting an immigration bill derided as a form of amnesty. In York County, Party Chairman Glenn McCall urged fellow Republicans to speak out against Graham's position.
The two men appear to have moved past their differences.
Graham gave McCall a friendly pat on the back and offered kind words to him and state House candidate Marvin Rogers, two of the few blacks in the room.
"Glenn and Marvin, y'all are blessings," Graham said. "To be African-American in the Republican Party, you're fighting uphill. Sometimes, we make it tough on you."
As he made his way toward he door, Graham offered a few more compliments for President Bush: "I'm proud of my president," he told The Herald. "And I'm proud of his support."