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Eye On Candidates
June 2, 2015

Graham Enters Race With Focus on National Security

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham became the latest Republican to enter the 2016 nomination contest, bringing to nine the total number of declared candidates. The New York Times reports on Lindsey's entry and what is likely to be the focus of his campaign:

Lindsey Graham Enters White House Race With Emphasis on National Security

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina returned Monday to the neighborhood where he was raised to announce that he is running for president, injecting a hawkish foreign policy voice into a crowded field of Republican contenders.

Mr. Graham entered the race a year after his political career appeared briefly to be on the ropes, when conservatives portrayed him as a moderate and tried to force him out of the Senate.

After fending off that challenge with ease, Mr. Graham, 59, has said his fear that the world is “exploding in terror and violence” inspired him to run for the White House. He will try to convince voters that a platform of pragmatism at home and “security through strength” abroad is the formula to give Republicans the best chance to beat Hillary Rodham Clinton if she becomes the Democratic nominee...

Alex Altman at Time magazine has an interesting piece suggesting that while Graham is unlikely to win the nomination, he could prove to be a vital player in the contest:

A rounding error in the polls, Graham lacks a national profile or fundraising network and suffers from a sour relationship with the grassroots activists who dominate the GOP presidential primary. In an age of political combat, he is one of Capitol Hill’s few surviving dealmakers, willing to buck the base to partner with Democrats on issues like immigration and environmental legislation.

But even if he won’t become President, Graham will be a player in the chase for the White House: as a hawk in a party with renewed focused on the threat of Islamic terrorism; as an agitator whose folksy style masks a taste for skewering his rivals; and as a potential kingmaker, whose base of support in the nation’s first southern primary state gives him the potential to tip a tight contest with an endorsement...

While Altman is skeptical of Graham's chances of getting the GOP nod, he does note some of the very real assets that suggest he should not be ignored:

Recently retired after 33 years in the U.S. Air Force, he has the deepest military background of any 2016 GOP candidate... There is still no one in the Republican field who can match Graham’s gift for the crowd-rousing zinger—a talent that wins him a media profile bigger than his poll numbers...

Though few predict he’ll emerge victorious, Graham’s allies believe he has the potential to pull some surprises. He’s a canny operator from humble beginnings, with a proven ability to energize crowds... And as a foreign policy candidate in what is shaping up as a foreign policy election, he’s likely to stay in the headlines for as long as he stays in the race.

Graham's best chance to move into the top tier of candidates will likely rest on whether he makes it into the early debates, which look like they will be limited to candidates in the top ten of national polling averages. He has a talent for delivering one-liners that would likely allow him to stand out from the crowded field in a debate. The question is, can he grow his support to the 3 or 4 percent that will probably be needed to secure a spot in the debates?