Graham is Serious Candidate for White House

South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham has announced that he is joining the pack of Republicans who are running for president. Most of the passengers in what many call the GOP clown car are not to be taken seriously. Mr. Graham, however, is. While the nominating process doesn’t particularly favor him, he is better-positioned than most to win delegates that will decide the nominee, and he is perhaps the best-positioned Republican to win in the general election.

Mr Graham has the support of his close friend Senator John McCain. Both are hawks, dangerously so, and Mr. Graham is running largely on the strength of his foreign policy expertise. While the McCain machine assembled for the 2008 run is not in prime condition, there is enough of it left to make Mr. Graham a serious contender in the money primary. He should have sufficient funds to run through the first few contests.

In addition, he is from South Carolina. This is important because South Carolina’s primary is early in the campaign calendar. It comes right after the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary. He need not win those, a third place showing would be adequate, if he has his organization ready to fight in his home state. Mr. Graham is one of those legislators who does the constituency work that creates a lot of good will. It was said of New York’s Senators Moynihan and d’Amato, if one wanted a policy paper one called the former, but to fill a pot hole, one called the latter. Mr. Graham gets pot holes filled. In the South Carolina primary, he could take 40% of the vote easily. That would leave him one of the top three or four. After that, it becomes a roll of the dice.

In American presidential politics, one wins the nomination by running toward the party extreme and the general election by tacking back to the center. Mr. Graham has a track record that makes the move to the center relatively easy. The rightist National Journal positions him as the 40th most conservative member of the Senate, putting him a fair distance from the Tea Party. Moreover, the Tea Party tried to oust him in his last election with primary challengers. “My party is center right. They are not in the right ditch. There’s an element of the left and the right that I don’t think reflects both parties. I won by 41 points against six opponents,” he told reporters.

Mr. Graham has been one of the voices of moderation over the status of undocumented immigrants. As one of the Gang of Eight that negotiated an immigration reform bill that ultimately died in the GOP House, he can win Hispanic votes in the way other Republicans cannot.

Then, there is Mr. Graham’s civility. America’s voters are pretty tired of vitriol. In yesterday’s speech, he said, “To my friends in the other party, on the big things we share a common fate. I’ll work with you to strengthen the country we both love. Our differences are real, and we’ll debate them. But you’re not my enemy. You’re my fellow countrymen. My enemies are those who despise our shared values, the enemies of enlightenment, the culture of death that seeks to destroy the dignity of life. We’ll fight them together with our partners. And we’ll win.” He has also said Hillary Clinton is “a good role model, one of the most effective secretary of states, greatest ambassadors for the American people that I have known in my lifetime.” He added, “She is extremely well-respected throughout the world, handles herself in a very classy way, and has a work ethic second to none.” Disagreeing without being disagreeable will win more than a few votes in swing states.

Finally, there is his personal story. His mother died when he was 21 and his father 15 months later. His sister was 13 and an orphan. Mr. Graham did the right thing and parented as best he could. That allowed him to say yesterday, “There are a lot of so-called ‘self-made’ people in this world. I’m not one of them. My family, friends, neighbors and my faith picked me up when I was down, believed in me when I had doubts. You made me the man I am today.” That humility will echo from coast to coast.

The Democrats should be scared.