The massive field of Republican presidential candidates got a little bigger this morning, when the senior senator from South Carolina threw his hat into the ring. NBC News' Andrew Rafferty reported:
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham officially added his name to the growing list of Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 on Monday, focusing his message on the hawkish foreign policy positions that have made him a leading voice among the Senate GOP. "I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them," Graham said in Central, South Carolina, his childhood home.
The rhetoric wasn't subtle. Indeed, arguably more so than any other candidate in either party, Graham is going out of his way to base his national candidacy on his foreign policy vision.
"I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race," the Republican senator insisted this morning. He quickly added, in reference to the Democratic frontrunner, "That includes you, Hillary."
That may not be a compelling enough pitch for a national Republican audience. Graham has maintained a fairly high profile for many years in GOP politics, but as his presidential bid gets underway, polls show him near the bottom of the crowded field, with poll support below 1%. His chances of even participating in candidate debates, barring unforeseen developments, are poor.
The fact that Graham hails from South Carolina is a relevant angle -- the Palmetto State holds the third nominating contest next year, following Iowa and New Hampshire -- but even here, his home-field advantage probably won't translate into an early primary victory.
What's more, Graham, after nearly a quarter-century on Capitol Hill, may pick up some support from the party establishment -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has already endorsed him -- but of the four sitting GOP senators running for the White House, Graham is likely to trail the other three in fundraising and endorsements.
But the underappreciated element of Graham's background is that his weakest issue is also his signature issue. As we've discussed before, on matters of foreign policy and national security, the Republican senator's record is littered with one failure after another, leaving him with no real credibility on the subject he cares the most about.
Michael Cohen had a good piece on this earlier in the year.
A review … of the senator’s foreign-policy pronouncements speaks to a different reality. Lindsey Graham is, in fact, far more often wrong than he is right. Occasionally, he is more than just wrong: Sometimes, he’s completely out of his mind.In a town filled with threat-mongers, fear-merchants, and hand-wringers, there is no one mongering more threats, selling more fear and wringing more hands than Sen. Graham. It’s going to be awfully hard for candidate Graham to lift people up when he’s constantly telling them the sky is falling.
A few months earlier, Salon's Simon Maloy put together a greatest-hits collection of sorts, which continues to stand out.
[T]he Lindsey Graham foreign policy platform [includes] arguments like: invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein has WMDs; invade Iraq again to fight terrorists; send U.S. forces to fight in Syria; the president can secretly order the killing of American citizens; deny terrorism suspects their rights as American citizens because “the homeland is the battlefield;” and (my personal favorite) “free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.” This is the platform of a serious, serious man who is very serious.Only a rational thinker like Lindsey Graham’s could look at the Islamic State’s threatening arsenal of pickup trucks and AK-47s and conclude that they represent an existential threat to the U.S. with the capacity to kill every single person in the United States of America. Only a sober observer of international politics could look at global affairs and conclude that “the world is literally about to blow up.” Only a sharp foreign policy mind like Lindsey Graham’s could make the connection between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi.
Under normal circumstances, a record like this would be disqualifying for a major-party presidential candidate. In Republican politics in 2015, a record like this gives Lindsey Graham a reputation as an expert in international affairs.
The South Carolina Republican is the ninth candidate to officially enter the race, following, in alphabetical order, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Firorina, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum.