WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has made no secret about his dislike for Donald Trump.
Still, Graham offered rave reviews Thursday of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s rumored pick to be vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
“I like him a lot,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “He’s a real smart, solid choice.”
Asked whether he would have liked to see a vice presidential candidate who could diversify the GOP and stand up against the history-making Democratic ticket candidacy of Hillary Clinton, Graham demurred.
“There are a lot of other people he could have chosen, some not — ” he trailed off. “I think that he’s a very good choice by Mr. Trump. I like Mike Pence.”
Prior to his run for governor, Pence served in the U.S. House from 2001 and 2013. He and Graham overlapped for one term in the House before Graham was elected to the Senate in 2003.
Gov. Nikki Haley knows Pence from their membership in the Republican Governors Association. Asked for comment on word of Trump’s supposed pick, Haley declined to weigh-in until the formal announcement.
Trump was supposed to reveal his pick on Friday, but a terrorist attack in Nice, France, prompted him to turn to Twitter to say that he would postpone the event out of respect for the dozens dead.
There is much speculation that Pence was chosen to bolster Trump’s conservative credentials. Former U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C., said there is little question Pence would be a plus to the ticket.
“In my eight years in Congress, Mike was one of my closest friends,” Barrett told The Post and Courier. “Very thoughtful, very prayerful, very well-spoken and a rock-solid conservative. He knows how to work with people without compromising his conservative principles, and that’s kind of a hard thing to do. And he’s a governor, and there’s something different about governors. They know how to lead.”
Barrett said he was behind Trump “150 percent,” and that to whatever extent voters doubted Trump’s conservative bona fides, Pence’s selection as vice president would clear up any misunderstanding.
“If he didn’t believe Trump was a conservative,” Barrett said, “he wouldn’t be on the ticket.”
S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore was behind the choice, too.
“Gov. Pence is an ideal vice president. He is a conservative reformer with executive experience who also maintains good contacts on Capitol Hill,” Moore said Thursday.
Maya Prabhu and Gavin Jackson contributed to this report. Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington correspondent.