Tap Dancing With Trump: Lindsey Graham’s Quest for Relevance

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“I jokingly discuss with Senator Graham as Senator Graham 1.zero and the Senator Graham 2.zero who got here alongside through the Trump years, the two.zero being the popular improve,” mentioned Nate Leupp, chairman of the Greenville County Republicans and one among a number of social gathering leaders in South Carolina who mentioned that they had lengthy been cautious of the senator’s “maverick alliances.”

Mr. Graham’s 2016 presidential main bid — a little bit of a lark, supposed to vault him to the nationwide stage as a solo act — had been a humiliating reminder of how weak he was at dwelling: When he dropped out in December 2015, he was polling in single digits in South Carolina.

His McCain-esque positions on immigration and commerce, he admits, had been a part of the issue. “I am keen on John McCain. Yeah, he’s finished extra to mentor me and assist me than any single individual in politics,” Mr. Graham mentioned. “However having mentioned that, I’m the senator from South Carolina.”

Maybe probably the most delicate subject for Mr. Graham was his bipartisan document on judicial appointments.

Mr. Graham had lengthy argued that presidents deserved to have their judicial nominees confirmed, and in 2010, he voted for Mr. Obama’s first Supreme Courtroom nominee, Elena Kagan. It got here at a value: Anti-abortion protesters in South Carolina hanged him in effigy, and when he ran for re-election in 2014, six main opponents popped up, every hammering him for being too liberal on the courts.

Mr. Graham has performed down the episode, nevertheless it clearly scarred him.

“I’ve triplets, and I’d most likely do something, together with breaking the legislation, to guard them. He’s received a Senate seat,” Mick Mulvaney, the previous performing White Home chief of workers, mentioned of Mr. Graham on a latest podcast.

So when a second Supreme Courtroom emptiness opened up in early 2016, Mr. Graham signed on to Mr. McConnell’s refusal to permit a Senate vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it got here too near the November election.

And a number of other individuals described the same dedication to show his conservative bona fides in what was most likely Mr. Graham’s most memorable public efficiency within the service of Mr. Trump: his outraged protection of Brett M. Kavanaugh, whom he had recognized for a decade, in opposition to sexual misconduct allegations through the Supreme Courtroom affirmation hearings in September 2018.

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