It wasn’t really surprising that libertarian Nancy Mace launched her Republican Senate campaign in South Carolina with a high-powered media blitz: Mace runs a public relations firm. Some have already dubbed Mace “Senator Lindsey’s Graham’s challenger,” though she’s not the only one.
In fact, Graham already has a challenger, Anderson County businessman Richard Cash, who has an active political base and amassed $270,000 in the past couple of months of being in the race. Add another challenger in State Sen. Lee Bright who has just entered the race too.
Republicans in the party’s base have long wanted to challenge the Senator, criticizing him as too quick to cave in to Democrats, a war hawk, and too liberal on fiscal policy. The Tea Party movement especially has long considered Graham a prime GOP target for a primary challenge.
This will be Graham’s first big challenge, though he’s ready for it with a war chest of $6 million.
Mace is the first female to graduate the Citadel. In South Carolina, she’s been active in its politics in a much different role than her now primary opponents. Incumbent Graham is the sitting senior Senator from the Palmetto State, while Cash was nearly elected to Congress in 2010, when he made it to the run-off in an eight-candidate Republican primary but narrowly lost the run-off to Rep. Jeff Duncan, and Bright has strong Tea Party backing. Mace is an opinionated activist at heart, and her GOP rivals are likely to make her pay a political price for her controversial past.
Mace’s announcement speech showed an awareness that rattling off her political resume may be more liability than benefit. Mace is a passionate follower of Ron Paul, having given time and resources to being a thorn in the side of the state GOP. It’s not hard to imagine why Mace wouldn’t want some conservative voters in South Carolina to find out her views on foreign and monetary policy. Last week, there were suggestions that Ron Paul was set to endorse Mace, causing his office to release a statement denying that he had made a decision.
Her enthusiasm for isolationism and “gold! gold! gold!” may not be Mace’s toughest hurdle. Until recently, Mace was co-owner of a South Carolina blog, FitsNews.com. Her association with the political gossip site was a liability she chose not to bring with her in the race. Why? The editor of FitsNews.com is Republican renegade Will Folks:
The Folks-run site is perhaps best known for claims he made during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of an “inappropriate physical relationship” several years earlier with Nikki Haley, then a state representative from Lexington. Haley went on to become governor despite the allegations, and Folks became persona non grata to her administration and supporters.
A source close to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, asked about the prospects of Haley endorsing Mace, answered bluntly: “When Hell freezes over.”