South Carolina senators battle over GOP's future

On the question of whether it's better to win or be ideologically pure, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint are taking different sides.

By Alex Koppelman
Published May 18, 2009 8:25PM (EDT)

At his own state party's convention this past weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., got a very cool reception. Some people in the crowd crowd of South Carolina Republicans didn't like Graham's speech, in which he said he wants a party that can win in all 50 states, even if it means compromising on some principles conservatives hold dear, and heckled him.

"You're a hypocrite!" one man in the crowed screamed at the senator, according to a local paper, The State.

"I'm a winner, pal," Graham responded. "Winning matters to me. If it doesn't matter to you, there's the exit sign... I'm not going to give this party over to people who can't win."

It was a sentiment that most of the crowd seemed to approve, The State reports. But not Graham's colleague, Sen. Jim DeMint, who's a hardline conservative, and a very outspoken one at that. When he spoke, following Graham, he said that if given the choice he'd take a Senate that has only 30 Republicans, albeit ones who follow conservative principles, over one with 60.

Graham also attracted the ire of Texas Rep. Ron Paul's supporters for saying that Paul "is not the leader of this party." One of those supporters asked South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford about it, which gave the governor an opportunity to get in a few shots at Graham as well.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Jim Demint R-s.c. Lindsey Graham