SC's Graham shows limits of tea party intimidation

By By CHARLES BABINGTON and JEFFREY COLLINS

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Lindsey Graham is proving the limits of the tea party's power to frighten GOP lawmakers into scurrying farther to the right.

The South Carolina Republican has angered conservative activists on several fronts.

He blasted tea party hero and Kentucky's Republican Sen. Rand Paul for criticizing U.S. drone policy. He says he's open to tax hikes in return for changes to Social Security and Medicare.

Several South Carolina Republican clubs censured Graham three years ago. Some called for a conservative challenger.

But even his critics now say Graham is likely to win a third term next year.

They list these reasons: He campaigns almost nonstop. He uses humor and folksiness to deflect criticism. And he stays friendly with conservatives like Paul even when he disagrees with them on some issues.

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