Can Lindsey Graham avoid a runoff?

Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is close to avoiding a runoff in his reelection bid, with none of this Tea Party challengers yet catching fire, according to a new poll from Winthrop University.

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Graham pulls 45 percent of the vote in the live-caller poll, with a big lead over his crowded field of opponents. That's still under the 50 percent threshold he needs to hit in the June primary to avoid a runoff two weeks later, but the numbers are still encouraging for the incumbent. 

None of his four opponents have gained any traction against the well-funded senator, however. Graham's closest GOP opponent, state Sen. Lee Bright, has 9 percent in the poll. None of the three other Republicans polled in the survey cracked 5 percent, while 35 percent of likely primary voters are undecided.

The results show Graham is in a fairly strong position heading into his June primary, but that there is still some resistance to him from the party's right flank. Graham drops to 34 percent support with Republicans who approve of the Tea Party.

National conservatives who want to see Graham defeated hope he can be held below 50 percent in the first round and that whoever emerges against him can coalesce the anti-Graham vote in the two weeks before the runoff election. None of his opponents have much money to do so, especially in a two-week runoff sprint, and Graham had $7.6 million in the bank, as of the beginning of the year. 

The live-caller poll of 901 likely Republican voters was conducted from Feb. 16-23 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.