It Looks Like Lindsey Graham Is Running For President

And the fun part is that his main motive for running appears to be the opportunity to troll Rand Paul.


It would appear that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is pretty close to getting into the Presidential race:

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday there’s a better than 90 percent chance he’ll run for president, saying he’ll decide in May.

“If I can raise the money, I’ll do it,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.

Graham said he’ll win South Carolina if he’s on the ballot, pointing out he won his reelection primary there last year by more than 40 points, despite challenges from multiple candidates. A recent poll of the GOP presidential primary field in South Caroilna, however, showed him trailing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“If I didn’t think I could win South Carolina, I wouldn’t be talking to you,” Graham said.

The South Carolina senator offered the strong signal that he’ll run for president after being told that former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina recently indicated she was 90 percent certain to enter the race. Asked by Fox host Chris Wallace to offer a percentage likelihood that he’d run, Graham said, “91.”

The third-term senator has staked his prospective bid for the GOP presidential nomination on his foreign policy chops, running as a hawk on Iran and using the Fox News interview to land broadsides on some of his potential Republican opponents and the Obama administration.

Still, he’s viewed skeptically by a Republican base wary of his support for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship and of a debt reduction plan that would raise new revenue in addition to cutting entitlement and other spending.

Realistically of course, Graham simply isn’t much of a factor in the Republican Presidential race. Despite his claim that he could win the state, he isn’t showing any evidence of that in polling. He’s currently in third place in the RealClearPolitics average at 12.7%, behind both Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. More importantly, he is such a non-entity outside of South Carolina that he isn’t even included in the polling in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, and he hasn’t been included in most of the national polling. Theoretically, if Graham could somehow pull off a surprise win in the South Carolina Primary it would arguably give his campaign a boost, but that’s not exactly guaranteed. Much like Rudy Giuliani in 2008, who bet his entire campaign on a big performance in the Florida Primary, basing the fate of the entire campaign on the outcome of the South Carolina is more likely to send it to an early end than be the key to future success.

It’s possible that Graham could do well in New Hampshire, I suppose. If he runs, he could potentially earn the support of fellow Senator John McCain, who has a long history of doing well in New Hampshire and has been called on as a campaign surrogate for everyone from Kelly Ayotte and Mitt Romney to Scott Brown when he ran for Senate last year. At the same time, though, Graham would be running against a fairly strong field that is going to have a lot of appeal for conservative and moderate voters in the Granite State. It’s very hard to see how an avuncular Senator from South Carolina is going to distinguish himself in a crowded field like that.

One gets the impression that Graham isn’t thinking about getting into the race because he thinks he can win. For months now, he’s become one of the Senate Republican Caucuses most frequent speakers on foreign policy issues, and a vocal critic of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Along with John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, Graham has been an outspoken critic of the President’s foreign policy and an advocate for a more aggressive foreign policy platform on the part of Republicans whether the subject involves Syria, ISIS, Yemen, Ukraine, or pretty much anywhere else in the world. He has also criticized the growing movement inside the party for a less aggressive foreign policy, which is perhaps best typified by Paul. On some level, it’s not too hard to believe that he sees a potential Presidential campaign primarily as a means to advance his foreign policy views, and to undercut Rand Paul. Get the popcorn out, folks, because this is going to be fun to watch.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Jesus H. Christ.

  2. Surreal American says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Jesus H. Christ.

    Probably not running in 2016. Too busy fending off endorsement requests from the GOP field.

  3. stonetools says:

    I wonder when the whispering campaign against him being a closeted homosexual is going to start ( Not that I look forward to it. But this is just something the right wing does, post Atwater).

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: Missy Lindthhhey? Such allegations are unfair,beneath us as a polity, and inevitable.

  5. Moosebreath says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “Jesus H. Christ.”

    He wouldn’t have much of a chance in the Republican primary. After all, he’s concerned about the poor, accepting of sinners, and acknowledges there’s a role for the state to play. He’d be in the primary for about 2 minutes before the first claims would pop up about Jesus being a RINO.


    “I wonder when the whispering campaign against him being a closeted homosexual is going to start ( Not that I look forward to it. But this is just something the right wing does, post Atwater).”

    I’d look forward to it, as an object lesson to millennials about the difference between the parties.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    Well, this is a completely natural political progression for Graham. He and John McCain have been a ticket of sorts on the Sunday morning news talkie circuit for a few years now, so why not make it official and run for president? Also, his candidacy has the additional (personal) advantage of not reducing the amount of air time he normally gets, although this does raise a few conflict-of-interest issues for the networks.

    Personally, I don’t think Graham is conservative enough for base Republicans.

  7. Surreal American says:


    And there’s that whole “not born in the U.S.” issue.

  8. wr says:

    I want him to run, because I want someone to air a commercial against him featuring a montage of all the existential threats he’s hyperventilated about over the last few years, and ending with the tagline:

    “Lindsey Graham. Is there anything he’s not scared of?”

  9. Bob @ Youngstown says:


    “Lindsey Graham. Is there anything he’s not scared of?”

    I seem to recall Graham fondly reminiscing about how he got great pleasure in shooting off his AR-15.

  10. Gustopher says:

    @stonetools: Why do you think it will be a whisper campaign?

  11. James P says:

    Let’s see:

    Graham believes in glo-bull warming.

    Graham is amenable to tax increases are part of a “grand bargain”

    Graham is for open borders and amnesty.

    Graham thinks Rubio is “too extreme”

    Lindsey Graham, you win the RINO of the day prize. Thanks for playing. Come again – or better yet don’t.

    In all seriousness, I appreciate Graham’s strength on foreign policy and national defense, but the fact that he believes in glo-bull warming, amnesty, and is open to raising taxes are absolute deal breakers.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @James P:

    Graham believes in glo-bull warming.

    Is that anything like Global Warming? If so, that is a point in Graham’s favor. It’s good to know that someone in the Republican Party believes in science.

  13. Ken_L says:

    I never get the reasoning behind this argument that “I’m getting in the race even though I have no chance of winning because I want to influence policy”. Surely in this case Graham would do better to throw his influence, such as it is, behind an avowed warmonger like Walker or Rubio who has an actual chance at the nomination. The more thinly the neo-con support is spread, the more it eases the path for a ‘moderate’ such as Bush (if ‘moderate’ is the right label for someone who would probably prefer to help Israel bomb Iran rather than get US forces involved).

    In truth, these kinds of Quixotic campaigns are little more than vanity projects.

  14. Paul Hooson says:

    At least this makes three able managers running for president, Clinton, Bush and Graham, and a field of fringe candidates with little proven management skills to handle the presidency. I think of the old Robert Redford move, “THE CANDIDATE”, where so much effort is put into running for office, and at the end of it Redford’s character asks his handlers, “What do we do now?”, having been elected, but without a clue how to manage the office he’s just been elected to…

  15. Ken_L says:

    @Paul Hooson: What did Graham ever manage? He went from the army to a law practice to politics.

  16. Ryan says:

    Aw, I hate it when trolls show their hands too obviously.

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Excellent. He may just win South Carolina, thereby ensuring that the GOP primaries will drag out far longer than Priebus would like. The longer the sideshow drags out, the farther to the right every one of their candidates will be drug.

    They’ll spend months in a circular firing squad, pandering to the Teatards, damaging each other and wasting resources, only to emerge at the far end with a nominee who’ll be battered and bloody from the internecine warfare of the primaries and who’ll spend the rest of the election in a failed effort to try to move back towards the middle / distance himself from the crap he had to spew in order to get the nomination. Moderates will hate him on sight and he’ll have alienated every constituency in existence other than angry old white people.

    Short version: Romney redux. At this rate, the nutjobs around here who pass for our conservative wing should probably start getting themselves accustomed to saying “President Hillary Clinton”.

    If doing so makes them choke with rage, well that’s just an added bonus. 😀

    (Also – remember people – DFTFT) …

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:


    He’s a bush league troll.

  19. Larry T says:

    @James P:

    general election

    So is he running for president or general? I’m sorry to bother you with questions but I was just wondering.

  20. SillyCommenter says:


    (Also – remember people – DFTFT) …

    Don’t forget to floss teeth? Don’t go adding dental care to the healthcare debate. Things could really get out of hand!

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:


    “Don’t Feed The F*cking Troll”

    but, then, you already knew that 😀

  22. Franklin says:

    @al-Ameda: There was actually an article over at Slate (a liberal site, for anybody who doesn’t know) a couple weeks ago begging for Graham to run for President. In a nutshell, the author considers climate change the most important issue and felt that Graham is the only person who could actually make some progress by convincing his side of the aisle to f***ing do something useful for once.

    EDIT: … and I’m somewhat sympathetic to the author. Go Lindsey!

  23. Robert C says:

    @James P:

    Hang it up, your credibility is zero…I’ll say what everybody is thinking: only children under age 8 believe in the tooth fairy…despite most parents efforts to milk it to 9-10.


  24. Larry T says:

    @Robert C:
    I think he’s smart.

  25. Barry says:

    @Ken_L: “I never get the reasoning behind this argument that “I’m getting in the race even though I have no chance of winning because I want to influence policy”. ”

    Normally I assume that it’s a combination of ego and building up a sucker supporter list, selling books, refreshing for a Fox gig, etc.

    In the case of a sitting Senator, it’s likely 99% ego.

  26. C. Clavin says:

    Butters for President….awesome sauce.
    This guy has been wrong about everything he has ever said.
    In other words…he is the quintessential Republican.