"I don't see the other guy as being all that terrible," Lowndes said of Graham. "He is just not like Jim DeMint, and I just see her as more like Jim DeMint."
The Graham campaign's near-term playbook is straightforward: Cut through the din and remind voters of his positions that do square with the conservative base. His aides point out that Graham earned a 92 rating from the American Conservative Union in 2012, has an A-rating from the National Rifle Association, and is opposed to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Graham is also a reservist in the South Carolina Air National Guard, not an insignificant biographical detail in a state with eight military bases and a large veteran community.
A well-known workaholic, Graham hasn't had a real political fight on his hands for over a decade, but he harbors an obsession with the minutiae of South Carolina politicking, a fact sometimes obscured by his reputation in Washington as a critical Senate power player and a fixture on the Sunday talk show circuit.
"His job is his lifestyle," Dawson said. "All he does is work."
There's something else Graham's confidantes are fond of pointing out when asked about the prospect of a difficult race: He enjoys a brawl.
His parents ran a small-town pool hall and liquor store in Pickens County, once the heart of South Carolina mill country. Graham was forced to raise his younger sister on his own after his parents died when he was barely 21.
"Lindsey grew up in his family's restaurant and pool room in Central," said one supporter who asked to remain anonymous. "If you back him into a corner, he's likely to break a bottle and come out swinging. He jumps in the big fights in Washington because he's got a little country in him."