Among other things, Graham is trying to get the Senate's two Tea Party caucus founders to join him in reforming Social Security, which observers say is the first real signal that the establishment element of the GOP is trying to join with the party's more conservative Tea Party faction, at least on some issues, Politico reported.
After saying the grassroots movement lacked vision and would fizzle last year, Graham has shifted his stance toward Tea Party activists.
"My opinion of the Tea Party has been ... if the Tea Party can help deliver Social Security reform, they deserve praise. If they can help us reduce spending, they deserve praise," Graham told Politico.
Tea Party groups have gone as far as censuring or rebuking Graham for his support of President Obama's nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also fault him for reaching across the aisle for Democratic support rather than keeping to the party line advocated by fellow South Carolinian Jim DeMint, the state's junior U.S. senator and the Tea Party leader who has called for purity in the Republican Party.
In South Carolina, Graham has been censured or rebuked by local Republican groups. Some Tea Party leaders said they have no relationship with the senator and will do everything in their power to defeat him in the party primary when he's up for re-election in 2014.
Republicans like him need a "coalition of Main Street, chamber of commerce and Tea Party people," Graham said.
Despite the recent outreach, Graham isn't aggressively wooing conservative activists to shore up his support from the right.
"Some of the people here have not supported Senator Graham, and some people will never support Senator Graham," a source close to the senator told Politico. "There are people who are ungettable. And quite frankly, we're not gonna try."
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