And then there were nine. Unlike the Fellowship of the Ring, it’s taken a while for the GOP primary field to reach this number, but we’re scheduled to hit it today when South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham returns to his home town to announce his bid for the White House. With luck, during his debut speech the senator will answer the pressing question on everyone’s mind: why would you do this? But before anyone writes him off entirely, USA Today has at least one argument to make in Graham’s favor. The guy has a proven track record as a winner.
Sen. Lindsey Graham has never lost a race.
In consecutive elections since 1992, he has wooed South Carolina voters with a combination of bootstrapped beginnings, a quick wit, pragmatism and ferocious debating skills.
On Monday, he returns to his boyhood hometown in Pickens County to announce his most ambitious campaign to date — for the Republican presidential nomination.
His perfect record at the ballot box — one election to the South Carolina House, five to the U.S. House and three to the U.S. Senate — has made him the most powerful Republican in South Carolina.
That’s not chopped liver. The political arena is tough sledding for the best of candidates, and having been through the ringer is an important aspect when selecting a candidate. But winning in South Carolina and winning nationally are still a fair distance apart. On the odd chance that you’ve somehow never heard of him, CBS News has assembled five things you should know about Graham. In a nutshell, they are:
1. He’s a hawk on foreign policy.
2. He really, really, really doesn’t like Rand Paul.
3. He’s a colonel in the Air Force Reserves.
4. He helped raise his younger sister Darline.
5. He’s so close to John McCain that he may as well be his foster son.
Numbers one and three are probably seen as a plus in the current climate, but there are already plenty of hawks in the field. Number four is a nice, personal back story, but that generally doesn’t move a lot of votes. Number five isn’t going to win him any bonus points among conservatives. And honestly, I originally thought that number two (acting as a spoiler for Rand Paul) was his primary reason for wanting to get into this in the first place. But at this point, almost everyone is attacking Rand Paul with such frequency that they’re thinking of adding another CSPAN channel just to cover all of the speeches the rest of the field is giving just to say how awful the Kentucky senator is. Simply being the anti-Rand candidate isn’t going to have Graham standing out from the pack.
Where does Graham see an opening in this scrum? I just checked back in with the poll of polls – which has been tracking a number of people who haven’t declared yet, along with those who have – and Lindsey doesn’t even show up in the numbers anywhere except in his home state, and even there he’s now fallen behind both Bush and Walker. The base seems to view him in a less than flattering light based on more than a few positions he’s taken, but he’s really not an establishment darling that’s going to attract Jeb Bush levels of money either. He seems to be one of the odd men out when stacked up against the rest of the field.
But in the words of John McClane, welcome to the party pal. Perhaps we’ll learn more in his speech today.