Graham dominates foes, avoids runoff
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.) crushed his Tea Party foes Tuesday evening, topping the 50 percent to win his primary outright and avoid a runoff.

The Associated Press has called the race for Graham, who had 59 percent of the vote with 54 percent of precincts reporting. Graham's closest rival was state Sen. Lee Bright, who took just 13 percent of the vote. 

Graham came into the election cycle with a target on his back from South Carolina Tea Party activists and national conservative groups. But he ran hard from the start, raising huge sums for the race and deterring potential foes from running against him, leaving organizations like the Club for Growth without a candidate to back.

He refused to let up against a half-dozen second-tier candidates that did jump in the race, spending millions on a robust field program and ads touting his hawkish foreign policy stances and work for the state. He took nothing for granted, barnstorming through South Carolina for months and speaking even to GOP audiences hostile to some of his views.

Ultimately, none of his opponents managed to coalesce the anti-Graham factions of the party, split between fiscal hardliners angry about his vote for the Wall Street bailout, social conservative leaders angry about his votes for President Obama's Supreme Court nominees and border hawks furious about his support for immigration reform. Without a unified front to rally the troops, conservatives even failed to keep him under the 50 percent mark that would have triggered a two-week runoff.