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

“I jokingly refer to Senator Graham as Senator Graham 1.0 and Senator Graham 2.0, who emerged during the Trump years, with 2.0 being the preferred upgrade,” said Nate Leupp, Greenville County’s Republican chairman and one of several South Carolina party leaders , who said they have long been suspicious of the Senator’s “Maverick Alliances”.

Mr Graham’s 2016 primary for the presidential run – a bit of a joke that was supposed to get him onto the national stage as a solo act – was a humbling reminder of how vulnerable he was at home: when he ruled out in December 2015, he was Single digit polls in South Carolina.

His McCain-like positions on immigration and trade, he admits, were part of the problem. “I adore John McCain. Yes, he has done more to advise and help me than any single person in politics, ”said Graham. “But after I say that, I’m the Senator from South Carolina.”

Perhaps the most sensitive issue for Mr Graham has been his bipartisan record in appointing judges.

Mr Graham had long argued that presidents deserve their in-court nominations upheld, and in 2010 he voted for Obama’s first female Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. It had its price: anti-abortion protesters in South Carolina hanged him as a portrait, and when he ran for re-election in 2014, six main opponents emerged, each of whom pounded him for being too liberal in the courts.

Mr. Graham downplayed the episode, but it clearly scarred him.

“I have triplets and I would probably do anything, including breaking the law, to protect them. He has a seat in the Senate, ”Mick Mulvaney, the former acting chief of staff of the White House, said on a recent podcast on Mr Graham.

When a second job on the Supreme Court became vacant in early 2016, Graham signed Mr McConnell’s refusal to allow a Senate vote on Merrick Garland’s nomination on the grounds that it was too close to the November election.

And several people described a similar determination to prove his conservative bona fides in what is perhaps Mr Graham’s most memorable public performance in the service of Mr Trump: his outraged defense against allegations of Brett M. Kavanaugh, whom he had known for a decade sexual misconduct during the Supreme Court confirmatory hearings in September 2018.

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