Lindsey Graham is not stupid. No matter what you think of his politics, he’s neither clueless nor lacking common sense. He’s a very smart man who knows the political landscape better than most. So why is he entertaining a run for the presidency?
He can’t win the Republican nomination. Despite numerous appearances on Fox News and Sunday talk shows, the senior senator from South Carolina doesn’t have the national recognition needed to either win primaries or raise the kind of money needed to overcome the more recognized candidates.
And no, he isn’t positioning himself as the vice-presidential nominee. A senator (or governor) from South Carolina adds nothing to the ticket. The Palmetto State is already as red as it can get, as is most of the South. It’s even doubtful that Graham would be an effective stump campaigner for whomever the GOP chooses.
His fundraising capabilities are moderate, at best, so he won’t be bringing in unique money, especially since those likely to donate on his behalf already would donate to Republicans.
So what is the point in jumping into the nomination sweepstakes?
Graham’s PAC, Security Through Strength, focuses heavy on military issues, primarily the fight against radical Islam. This is true to the subject Graham is most often invited to discuss on national television: national security. The other issues on which Graham is cited as a “leader” are merely fluff to round out his resume.
What it appears Lindsey Graham is doing is running for Secretary of Defense.
It cannot be disputed that the senator loves the military. He has been a champion for service members and veterans and believes to his core in the necessity of a strong armed forces.
By emphasizing his military-related bona fides on the stump and the debate stage, Graham would burnish his reputation as the “defense candidate.” Once a Republican is elected — not a given but a better-than-even-bet — the name most prominent when the Defense job is vetted will be Lindsey Graham.
For further consideration, should this scenario play out, might Gov. Nikki Haley resign so her successor, Henry McMaster, could appoint her to fill Graham’s unfinished term?