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South Dakota Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Republican Conference, said, “Now more than ever, we need lawmakers that will pursue policies that create jobs and spur economic growth, and I’m confident that Tim will be a strong partner as we pursue these goals in the coming weeks and months.”
But in a nod to the significance of Scott’s appointment, South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, noted the state’s troubled history with race and its role as the first state to secede from the Union, triggering the Civil War.
“If these walls could talk, what would they say?” Graham said at the news conference. “Just think of the conversations that have happened in this building during the history of our state. I can’t help but say the obvious: Yes, you did earn everything that comes your way, Tim. But this is a day that has been long in the making in South Carolina.”
Before his selection, most state Republican operatives had said Scott was the smartest choice for Haley. Her own 2014 re-election is no sure bet, and she will now share the ballot with Scott and Graham. Scott was widely viewed as the appointee who could best aid her with re-election.
DeMint also spoke at the news conference, which was noteworthy for how much praise DeMint, Scott and Haley heaped on Graham.
Joel Sawyer, a consultant at South Carolina-based Donehue Direct, said Graham is now the most vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right.
“I don’t view this as great news for Lindsey, and the reason being is because Tim Scott is someone who’s very difficult to beat in a primary,” Sawyer said. “If you’re an ambitious Republican looking at primarying the governor, Graham or Scott, the path of least resistance is going to probably be Graham.”