Sen. Lindsey Graham to Launch Long-Odds Bid for White House

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from The Wall Street Journal,

South Carolina Republican’s pull among voters, donors may change the calculation of other presidential candidates.

Sen. Lindsey Graham barely registers in national surveys testing support for Republican presidential candidates. But here in South Carolina, which holds an early slot on the primary-election calendar, he is a household name who has won every race he has run for 23 years.

That makes Mr. Graham, who is expected to launch his presidential campaign on Monday to become the ninth announced GOP candidate, a wild card in an important state. Even if Mr. Graham doesn’t win here, his pull among voters, donors and campaign operatives is likely to change the calculation of other candidates.

Among those who could be affected most is Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who like Mr. Graham has broken with his party’s base on immigration and lacks the sharp ideological edges of most other contenders in the primary field.

“There are a number of people who have been enthusiastic supporters of Graham who would more than likely be enthusiastically looking at Bush, if Graham wasn’t in the race,” said Chip Felkel, a Greenville, S.C., political consultant who has worked for Mr. Bush’s father and brother.

That image as a less-than-ardent conservative on some issues has meant that while Mr. Graham is well known in South Carolina, he isn’t universally loved within the state GOP.

The three-term senator has been censured by at least three county parties for actions such as supporting President Barack Obama’s appointees, among them Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. He has been booed at town hall meetings for promoting an immigration overhaul that would have opened a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. In his last Senate re-election race, he drew six GOP challengers.

“You can’t call him a favorite son, since so many people hate him,” said Brad Warthen, a political blogger and former editorial page editor of The State newspaper in Columbia.

Mr. Graham’s pollster, Richard Quinn, says that as many as 30% of Republican voters in South Carolina have an unfavorable view of the senator. But Mr. Quinn points out that Mr. Graham won his crowded 2014 primary with 56% of the vote, avoiding a runoff—proving that more Republicans like him than don’t. “He is our favorite son,” Mr. Quinn said. “South Carolina is his state to lose.”

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