A focus on policies that benefit the middle class and minorities will help to bring the country together under Republican leadership, Lindsey Graham told a room of about 100 potential voters Monday.
Graham, a Republican presidential candidate and U.S. senator from South Carolina, said the GOP is full of people who can lead the Republican Party into the future.
“(But) the Hispanic vote [for Republicans] has dropped from 44 to 27 percent in the last eight years,” Graham said during a town-hall-style meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., at the Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach. “Look at Tim Scott. Look at [Gov.] Nikki Haley. The party is full of young, bright, energetic people who are dying to do good.”
Graham suggested several ways to reform federal programs including Medicare, Social Security and food stamps, saying “entitlement growth” is driving the national debt.
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“Medicare is much more of a problem than Social Security,” he said. “For somebody in my income level – I make $175,000 a year, so maybe at $150,000 and up – on Medicare, the premium they pay is 40 percent of the actual cost. ... At my income level, we should pay the actual premium instead of have it subsidized.”
Graham also warned of another potential terrorist attack on the United States.
“Another 9/11 is on its way,” he said of radical Islamic terrorist groups including ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “We’re living on borrowed time. Get them or they’re going to get you. I intend to get them.”
Graham said if is he elected president, he will put troops on the ground in Syria to “destroy ISIL before we get hit here.” He also said educating young women in the Middle East to have a voice about their children will destroy radical Islam.
“If you want a new foreign policy, you need to elect someone who will do something different,” he said. “We’re going on the offense.”
Surfside Beach resident Doris Helwig said she wanted to see Graham speak because she always has been impressed with his knowledge of the issues.
“I like the confidence of Lindsey Graham,” she said. “There’s no way he displayed any kind of weakness or wavered on any issue.”
Helwig said she also saw businesswoman and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina when she was in Myrtle Beach last week.
“I love her,” Helwig said. “She was wonderful and energetic and dynamic.”
Helwig said she is not sure who will get her vote in the state’s February GOP primary, but she is leaning toward Graham, Fiorina or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Graham fielded questions from Scott – some had been submitted by audience members ahead of time – on subjects ranging from abortion to national debt.
Scott is hosting similar town-hall meetings across the state to get Republican presidential candidates in front of as many South Carolinians as possible.
Graham told supporters Sunday in Murrells Inlet that he is not concerned with his low polling numbers — he has 0 percent of the vote among 15 Republican candidates according to www.RealClearPolitics.com — and is looking to do well in the New Hampshire primary in January.
“I’m going to work on getting known nationally,” he said Sunday. “I’m going to get to New Hampshire, meet as many people as I can, get support and keep this campaign financed.”
Graham touts his 20 years in Congress, the last 12 in the U.S. Senate, and his life experience in the middle class as reasons why he would make a good president.
“I really, honest to God believe I can win this election if I’m nominated, simply because I’ve walked in the shoes of an average American more than they (Democrats) have,” he said.