Gosh, I sure am. Suggested slogan: “He’s not the RINO America wants. He’s the RINO America needs.”
Incidentally, does this mean Peter King isn’t running? You’ve got to figure there’s room for only one pro-amnesty hyper-interventionist centrist in the field. Besides Marco Rubio, I mean.
In our interview, Graham repeatedly spoke of the challenges that will face the next president because of the mistakes made under Obama. And he suggested that he might just be the one to fix them.
“If I get through my general election, if nobody steps up in the presidential mix, if nobody’s out there talking—me and McCain have been talking—I may just jump in to get to make these arguments,” Graham said.
I asked Graham about Rubio. Hasn’t he been making many of the arguments you’d be likely to make? Graham wasn’t impressed. “He’s a good guy, but after doing immigration with him—we don’t need another young guy not quite ready,” said Graham. “He’s no Obama by any means, but he’s so afraid of the right, and I’ve let that go.”
McCain likes what he sees in the emerging GOP field, but acknowledges that he’s told Graham to think about running.
So we’ll have Jeb Bush or Christie running for Romney’s niche and Graham running for McCain’s niche. Does Bob Dole have a horse in this race too? It’s not too late for Pat Roberts to start thinking about it, especially now that it looks like he’ll be unemployed next year.
Anyway, what a stupid idea. The obvious play for centrist hawks who are worried about Paul and Cruz is to unify behind a candidate early and try to push that guy to victory in Iowa and New Hampshire, all but locking up the nomination. Rubio’s their best bet (unless, I guess, Jeb runs), yet here Graham is not only tearing him down for caring what the party’s base thinks but threatening to actually siphon off votes from Rubio by running himself. It’d be like Sarah Palin deciding to jump in and cannibalize some of Ted Cruz’s tea-party support because, even though she agrees with him on basically everything, he’s a little too green for a big campaign. Why risk blocking your faction’s best chance at that nomination?
Three possibilities, then. One: Having beaten back tea partiers in South Carolina to secure another term in the Senate, Graham’s ego is now so out of control that he doesn’t care what damage he might do by running for president too. As long as he gets to stand on stage at the debates and call Rand Paul a hippie, mission accomplished. Two: Maybe Graham’s thought this through and concluded that he’s no more likely to draw any votes than Peter King is, in which case he won’t end up damaging Rubio or Christie or any of the more viable hawks. He’ll get zero percent in Iowa and New Hampshire but that’s okay; the point of this, again, is to gain a big megaphone with which to rhetorically punch Rand Paul in the face. Three: This is actually a sly ploy by Graham to help Rubio and the other hawks. Publicly he’ll claim he’s the best candidate but privately, knowing he can’t win, he’s resolved to act as a stalking horse for the more viable centrists by training his fire relentlessly on Paul and Cruz. That way, Rubio and Christie don’t have to be too aggressive in attacking, which would risk hard feelings during the general election. It could even be that Graham is setting himself up as a handy contrast for Rubio: When Paul accuses Rubio of being too aggressive abroad, Rubio can point at Graham and say, “He’s the guy who wants to invade every country in the world, not me.” Rubio will be a beacon of moderation by contrast. I doubt that’s what Graham has in mind but I also can’t believe he’d run earnestly and risk splitting the center. You’ve got to be savvy to get elected and reelected as a RINO from a famously conservative state. There must be an angle here.