Once labeled one of the most vulnerable incumbents in 2014, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) coasted to a primary victory Tuesday even as the House majority leader fell to a Tea Party challenge in Virginia.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Graham had 56.8 percent of the vote. The highest-scoring challenger out of six Tea Party opponents, state Sen. Lee Bright, barely cleared 15 percent.
By clearing 50 percent, Graham avoided a runoff.
He also put in an aggressive ground game, not taking for granted that his seat was safe, and spent about $10 million on the campaign.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement asserting that the results were indeed a referendum on immigration reform, but not in the manner Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) opponents claimed.
“Tonight’s election shows the Republican Party has two paths it can take on immigration,” Schumer said. “The Graham path of showing leadership and solving a problem in a mainstream way, which leads to victory. Or the Cantor path of trying to play both sides, which is a path to defeat.”
Graham helped broker the Group of Eight immigration reform compromise legislation in the upper chamber.
“Cantor’s defeat does not change the fundamental fact that Republicans will become a minority party if they don’t address our broken immigration system,” Schumer added.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Cantor’s defeat turned the midterms into “a whole new ballgame.”
“Tonight, the Tea Party defeated Republican Leader Eric Cantor, who is one of the most extreme members of Congress,” Pelosi said.