With [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ]’s entry into the GOP sweepstakes to be the next President, things are getting a little strange… and crowded. I’m talking about official candidates as in “declared.” We still have Walker, Bush, Jindal, Christie and Kasich to hear from which could increase the field to 14. For political pundits, that may be a little too much- too many voices crying for your support. Mistakes are likely to be made along the way and Democratic opposition research experts are recording every utterance by everyone right now to use as ammunition somewhere down the line. Just look at the misinformation and quotes out of context attacks Scott Walker is facing right now.
I believe Graham’s whole notion of a presidential run began in 2014. At the time, CNN ran some film of Graham speaking before some group fantasizing about a Graham presidency. I do not care that he claimed white, rich, Southern men would find a home in his administration; its silly political talk, a joke to get the crowd warmed up. But, the part about being President was real. Why? Because Graham was experiencing a bit of political aggrandizement. The year 2014 was supposed to be the year the conservative base was going to take down Graham in South Carolina. They even had their man in state legislator Bobby Bright. But, the field was crowded and Graham won 56% of the Republican primary vote and avoided a potentially debilitating runoff that could have ended his Senate career. Instead, its possible he seriously misread the tea leaves and took that 56% primary vote as proof that he could win even under the worst of circumstances when the Republican conservative base had placed a bulls eye on his back.
In the wake of that primary victory- tantamount to winning the general election in South Carolina- Graham may have overestimated his popularity and underestimated his lack of popularity. Who were they going to vote for? The Democrat? When six challengers lined up against Graham, it was a recipe for a Graham victory and one can almost bet that had there been less opponents, there may just have been a runoff where anything could have happened.
Towards those ends, Graham remains fairly unpopular among the conservative base of the party and the conservative base not only comes out for the primaries, but especially so in states like South Carolina. There will be way too much for Graham to defend in way of his views of issues of greatest importance to conservative voters beyond, “The world is more dangerous.” We all know that, but equally important his views on immigration and climate change are very disturbing. They are so disturbing that even Slate magazine- an online Leftist rag- thinks he would be the best possible Republican to address “the growing crisis of climate change.” That is a scary thought.
Even with his alleged strength- foreign policy- he expresses some naivete akin to the current occupant of the White House. For example, in response to the now infamous “knowing now what we didn’t know then” question, he continues to reiterate that Arab countries long for some American-style form of democracy. They have no concept of a true democracy; it is not in their blood. I am not going as far as [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ], who I believe is equally naive but in the opposite direction, but geopolitical naivete is naivete no mater how you cut and with Obama, I think we have had enough.
Some have speculated that Graham is doing this as a foil against Paul. If the reason you are entering a presidential race is to counterbalance another candidate, then perhaps he should reconsider. This is especially true that Rand Paul likely will not be the party’s nominee. So what is Graham’s motivation? Should we take him at his word?
Right now, Graham’s entry into the race is tying up endorsements in South Carolina. However, some Palmetto State big wigs are out there actively campaigning for other candidates in the race. The one candidate most likely to suffer in South Carolina because of Graham’s entry into the race is Jeb Bush which, if true, we should send a small “thank you” note to Graham. But, Graham has a long way to go. He barely registers in any polls conducted and has to be in the top 10 to be in the first debate where he can expand his exposure (note: I do not think the debate system is fair).
And he obviously is placing a lot of faith in the voters of the South Carolina primary. They are likely to go fourth on the primary calendar after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. If he can surprise and stay alive until South Carolina in February, some people may take notice. But whether he can win in his home state is another story altogether. He may have beaten a large field in 2014 in his Senate reelection campaign, but running a Senate reelection primary campaign is a lot different than running a presidential primary campaign- even in your home state. Graham may survive until then (its hard to see him raking in too many donations), but his victory as the “favorite son” candidate may prove to be a political disaster.
In the end, Graham will likely be a footnote when the history of this campaign season is finally written. Instead, I see his entry into the race part overestimation of his abilities, and part attempt to define the Republican Party’s foreign policy planks at the national convention in Cleveland. However, in the interest of fairness, let’s let him have his say and take it from there. I seriously doubt any minds will be changed.