Senator Lindsey Graham jumps into the broad field of Republican presidential candidates, while bringing a uniqueness to the campaign, according to a longtime political reporter who now serves as a University of South Carolina dean.
USC Dean of the College of Information and Communications Charles Bierbauer told South Carolina Radio Network that Graham is different than most of his anticipated GOP rivals. “He is an interesting candidate because he is in a different place on the political spectrum from most of the Republican candidates,” Bierbauer said. “That is to say he is not far right.”
Graham currently chairs three military, foreign policy and terrorism-related Senate subcommittees, has served on three others in the past, and has sponsored dozens of bills on foreign policy. Graham has also, by his own count, traveled to two dozen countries on official business and met with the leaders of many of them. Most recently the senator met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. He is a persistent critic of what he sees as the Obama administration’s weakness globally, which he argues has invited foreign threats like Russia and ISIS to take advantage.
The newest GOP candidate to announce his candidacy did so in his hometown of Central, roughly five miles northeast of Clemson University in Pickens County. Graham’s parents had owned a pool hall and liquor store in the town until both died while Graham was still in college. He later returned to Central to work as the town’s attorney from 1990-1994.
While he never saw combat, Graham is the only declared candidate to actually serve in the U.S. military (although former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was an Air Force captain, is expected to announce his own candidacy later this week). Graham spent more than six years as an active-duty Air Force lawyer during the 1980s and formally retired from the Air Force Reserve before announcing his campaign on Monday. Graham has 33 years of combined service in the Air Force, Reserve and South Carolina Air National Guard. At his official announcement he made point of his background.
Bierbauer said Graham brings to the fold more than most of the GOP candidates. “He is trying to contrast himself to the others who may have far less military and international experience,” Bierbauer said.
The last time a resident South Carolinian ran for president was 31 years ago when Senator Ernest Hollings sought the Democratic nomination. Hollings dropped out of the race after doing poorly in New Hampshire. Greenville-born Jesse Jackson ran for president twice in 1984 and 1988 and Seneca native John Edwards ran in 2004, but both men had moved to other states by then.