by Paul Bowers
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made headlines last week when he said in an interview with the conservative Weekly Standard that he was considering a run for president in 2016. Today at a Republican campaign office in Mt. Pleasant, when asked how serious he is about running for president, Graham gave the following answer:
What happened is I was being interviewed by the Weekly Standard about national security, and several people mentioned my name as a — if you're a national security guy, I'm one of the leading voices, along with Sen. [John] McCain. So if you're looking for somebody who can carry the banner for a national security platform, then a lot of people see me as a person being able to do it.
What I told them, it wasn't as much a statement of ambition as much as concern. You know, our party for the last couple of years has been a bit uncertain about national security. One minute we're libertarians, and the next minute we're Ronald Reagan Republicans. I'd like to form a coalition with libertarians, but not on national security. I think Obama's mistakes are coming back to haunt him, and some people in our party are left of him ...
When it comes to running for president, I have been with John McCain on two different campaigns, one when he won the primary, the other he lost. But both experiences have taught me that if you are serious about this, you go through hell, personal hell: Raising the money, putting together the organization, all the things that go into being a competitive candidate for president. I am nowhere near there. I know what it takes; I don't idly talk about it.
In the original Weekly Standard interview, Graham said, "If I get through my general election, if nobody steps up in the presidential mix, if nobody's out there talking — me and McCain have been talking — I may just jump in to get to make these arguments."
In the meantime, Graham is up for re-election in November, when he will face Democratic candidate Brad Hutto, Libertarian candidate Victor Kocher, and petition candidate Thomas Ravenel. Graham has refused to debate Ravenel, the former state treasurer who resigned in 2007 after being indicted on cocaine distribution charges and has since worked a stint as a reality TV star in the Charleston-based Bravo series Southern Charm.
"I don't want to do anything that would make news in a bad way for our state. It's not that I'm afraid to debate anybody's ideas, but I think I have a responsibility, being the sitting senator, not to allow this thing to turn into a circus. I can't remember anytime we've elected an independent candidate, I guess, since Strom's write-in."
Graham says he has agreed to debate Hutto in a Columbia forum hosted by the state Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 27.