Lindsey Graham was sitting in a sedan early one morning and contentedly discussing the various fellow South Carolina conservatives who dislike him — Tea Partiers, Constitutionalists, immigration hardliners — when Van Cato, his upstate regional director, lifted a hand from the steering wheel and said: “That’s the leader of them right there. There’s his sign. He’s running for Greenville County Council.”
On four occasions, Graham met with Tea Party groups. The first, in his Senate office, was “very, very contentious,” he recalled. During a later meeting, in Charleston, Graham said he challenged them: " ‘What do you want to do? You take back your country – and do what with it?’ . . . Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent."
In a previous conversation, Graham told me: “The problem with the Tea Party, I think it’s just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out.” Now he said, in a tone of casual lament: “We don’t have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats.” Chortling, he added, “Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.”