538: Lindsey Graham may have already ‘won’

Graham announce

As Lindsey Graham was announcing his candidacy for the presidency this morning in his hometown of Central, I was reading this piece from FiveThirtyEightPolitics, which suggests that our senior senator may already have achieved his goal in running:

In presidential politics, there are two main ways a candidate can succeed: He or she can win the nomination. Or, he or she can highlight a specific policy or set of policies that otherwise might get ignored or marginalized.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s expected to officially announce he’s running for president Monday, is unlikely to join the first group, as I’ve explained previously. But he appears to fit nicely into the second category, as an advocate for an interventionist foreign policy and prioritizing national security.

But here’s the thing: A couple of years ago, it looked like the 2016 Republican field might need just such an advocate — the field was looking like it might be less hawkish than it had been in a long time. Now, even without Graham, the GOP field has plenty of hawks.

You might remember that the relatively dovish Sen. Rand Paul was leadingprimary polls in 2013. Part of that advantage was due to an isolationist shift among Republican rank and file….

But then:

Republican voters (and the majority of candidates) returned in 2014 to their hawkish roots. This shift coincided with the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State, which took control of a quarter of Iraq and a third of Syria last year and released widely circulated videos of beheadings, with victims including U.S. citizens. Republican lawmakers criticized President Obama for, among other things, referring to Islamic State as the “JV team” and not responding more forcefully to the threat.

And so Republican attitudes have flipped since 2013….

Actually the headline on the piece is misleading. It’s thesis is not so much that Graham has triumphed in bringing the GOP back to the hawkish fold. It actually reads more like, As Graham announces, the raison for his campaign has flown.

But it was still interesting, if only for the way it documents the way the GOP field has shifted away from Paulist isolationism.

Yep, Paul is still out there making headlines doing his thing, but it’s not exactly enchanting the GOP electorate

22 thoughts on “538: Lindsey Graham may have already ‘won’

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Secretary of State Lindsey Graham? Sure.

    Secretary of Defense Lindsey Graham? Eh…Okay.

    President Lindsey Graham? Thanks, but no thanks.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And maybe he’s thinking the same way you are. It’s interesting that you picture him at State before Defense, given his hawkish rep. Do you not see him as a wartime consigliere?

      1. Mark Stewart

        No. Graham is, or portrays himself to be, politically astute. However, a leader he is not.

        Can we get him to campaign on a massive increase in H1-b visas and some sort of permanent residency for holders of these visa? That would get the corporate campaign money rolling his way. Otherwise, not so likely…

      2. Bryan Caskey

        That’s why I would prefer him at State. SECDEF is already a hawkish slot, and I’m not sure I want someone that interventionist there. Graham is about as interventionist as it gets.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    Lindsey is the least nutso of all the GOP candidates I can think of. He’s a hawk, and I’m not, but he’s thoughtful, intelligent and sane, which is more than I can say of the others!

        1. Mark Stewart

          W is the 23rd letter of the alphabet. Thankfully we still have that after the phenomenon of the man has faded.

  3. Bart

    If I was a member of the Republican Party, I might be tempted to toss my hat in the ring. After all, considering the number who have already declared, what would one more hurt? I could ask Bryan to be my campaign manager unless he decides to become a candidate. Or maybe Juan Caruso. I could get Phillip, Kathryn, Mark, Doug, bud (I didn’t forget you this time), and Harry to write my speeches. At least I would cover all bases.

    I have a couple hundred dollars to spend on campaign material and could photo-bomb a few photo-ops by other candidates and hold up a sign advertising my candidacy. At the very least, it would get me out of the house which would delight my wife. But, she doesn’t like crowds so being First Lady might be a problem for her. Darn, that ended that pipe dream.

    1. Mark Stewart

      You just might get my write-in vote…

      Bush vs. Clinton is the last thing any of us citizens deserve.

  4. Doug Ross

    This is Joe Lieberman all over again.. except without the Joe-mentum. A vanity campaign for one of the biggest egos in the Senate. A guy who literally has done nothing but talk for his entire career.

    And who was the last legitimate candidate who was unmarried?

    1. Juan Caruso

      As Mark Stewart observed, Lindsey is no leader. He seeks cover in every political move he makes. Obama has more courage.

      As you observed Lindsey is about vanity. He knows that he could have no “gangs of eight” from the oval office. He wants the SecDef or AG spot. Of those, McCain could help push Graham for SecDef. I will be interested to see how badly the Dems push flimsy Lindsey as SecDef should they win (RINO favors owed).

      1. Mark Stewart

        “Obama has more courage” – I’m going to remember you said that, Juan. And laugh to myself about it.

        Flimsy Lindsey is pretty good, too. Probably the best thing to come out of the Tea Party… in all its years of populist pandering.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks for alluding to my man Joe, Doug!

      Speaking of which…

      The Post’s Chris Cillizza led a story today about the Democratic also-rans with the line, “Do you feel the Bernie-mentum?

      But he hastened to add that he wasn’t being “entirely flip.” He was saying that Sanders is making a good showing…

  5. Dave Crockett

    I found a TV editing decision of his announcement interesting.

    The local NBC affiliate up here in the Upstate covered the event with their own team and the opening statement from Lindsay was his reference to having more international relations experience than any other candidate in the race. Then, almost under his breath, he said “….and that includes you, Hillary.” The NBC Nightly News used the same clip (even the same video, I think) but abruptly cut away before the Hillary jab.

    I’m a fan of neither Hillary nor Lindsay…nor any of the other announced candidates to date. But the editing decision seemed a bit partisan. My $0.02, as usual…

  6. Doug Ross

    Jon Stewart had a good time poking fun at Lindsey’s announcement speech. Graham spent so much time talking about the dangerous world we live in and the constant threat from radical Islam.. and then he walked off the stage to James Brown’s “I Feel Good” as the campaign theme song. Talk about tone deaf.

  7. Phillip

    Sept. 2014: “Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”
    March 2014: “The world is literally about to blow up…”
    July 2013: “We live in the most dangerous times imaginable.” (Obviously never studied history in college nor does he have much imagination).
    April 2011: “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.”

    And I could go on—luckily for those of us who enjoy a good chuckle, the pace seems to have picked up in recent weeks as the campaign announcement neared, such as the “Everything that starts with ‘al’ in the Middle East is bad news” gem.

    It’s a low bar to be sure, but I’m not sure I can agree with Kathryn that he is the “least nutso” of GOP candidates. Let’s give Lindsey more credit than that. His campaign may not last too long, but I’m sure he will leave us some priceless moments to treasure long after the election is done.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Okay, who do you think is the least nutso? It’s a tough question. jeb Bush?

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