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Graham’s Odd 2016 Campaign

Jim Antle considers the effect that Lindsey Graham’s odd presidential bid could have on the race:

Yet Graham is, in some respects, a perfect foil for Paul. It’s a lot easier for a libertarian-leaning presidential candidate to make a case against aggressive military intervention when the poster boy for the neocon cause is a cartoonish, blustery senator who never met a hyperbole he didn’t like.

Graham’s candidacy is an unusually odd one, since he is running mainly to promote the hard-line foreign policy views that are already overrepresented in the current field. It makes some sense for a politician to launch a hopeless presidential bid in order to promote a particular cause or advance a pet issue, but in this cycle Graham’s fear-mongering and alarmism about the state of the world are redundant. He may be the most vocal and most ridiculous of the alarmists, but he will be just one among many.

Antle mostly focuses on how Graham’s campaign could benefit Paul, but Paul might be the least affected by Graham’s decision to join the contest. His entry into the race is an implicit rebuke to Rubio, who has made foreign policy hawkishness one of the main themes of his own campaign, and it presents Rubio with an additional obstacle. Rubio has been trying to present himself as the leading hard-liner in the field, and cites his alleged foreign policy experience as the thing that separates him from the current and former governors that will make up most of his competition. The trouble is that Rubio’s foreign policy views are virtually identical with Graham’s, and Graham can easily claim to have more experience in supporting terrible hawkish policies. The last thing that probably distinguishes Rubio from the rest of the field fades into the background if Graham is in the mix.

It’s true that Rubio doesn’t have quite as many problems with conservatives as Graham does, but at least on immigration and foreign policy Rubio could easily be seen as just a younger version of Graham. The good news for Rubio is that Graham is polling so poorly that he probably won’t qualify for most of the debates in which Rubio will be participating. Even so, most of any support Graham gets is probably going to come at Rubio’s expense. Graham has no realistic chance to become the nominee, but he could end up helping to sabotage the chances of a candidate that is closest to him on foreign policy.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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