As a longtime U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham has had a chance to work closely with some of the Republican Party’s leading 2016 presidential candidates. He’s not, however, endorsing any of them.
Nearly a month after exiting the race, and the day after watching the GOP field debate from inside the venue, Graham has settled on his candidate.
South Carolina senator and onetime GOP presidential candidate Lindsey Graham will endorse Jeb Bush Friday, backing the former Florida governor despite flagging poll numbers nationwide and in key primary states.“His endorsement is very meaningful and along with it come a lot of friends and supporters of his,” Bush said in an appearance on FOX News, which first broke the story of the nod.
This doesn’t come as too big of a surprise. The New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago on the Bush’s campaign’s six-point plan to save his candidacy, and the fourth point was, “Woo Lindsey Graham.”
The article noted, “Throughout the campaign, Mr. Bush had made a point of texting Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina weekly, just to check in. On the morning Mr. Graham dropped out of the race for president, Mr. Bush was ready with the hard sell. Mr. Bush immediately sent him a message, and the two men spoke on the phone later that day, when Mr. Bush made his pitch – that he was the best prepared to be commander in chief and the most qualified on Mr. Graham’s main issue, national security.”
The hard sell apparently paid off. What’s less clear is how much of a difference it will make.
South Carolina is the third contest in the Republicans’ nominating race, and Bush is actually doing relatively well in the state, at least when compared to other early primaries: the former governor is currently running fifth with support around 7%. He’s trailing Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, but by fairly modest margins.
With this in mind, Team Jeb is no doubt thinking that with Graham’s home-state network, Bush might be able to work his way into a top-three finish, leaving him in a far better position in the Republican establishment “lane.”
Is this wishful thinking? Probably, but Jeb Bush hasn’t received much in the way of good news lately, and an endorsement from Lindsey Graham offers a rare opportunity to cheer.
Postscript: Bush now has five endorsements from Senate Republicans, the most of any GOP candidate. Marco Rubio is second with four, followed by Mike Huckabee with two.