Lindsey Graham’s a very long shot to win the White House.
But so were some other politicians who eventually became presidents:
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln lost the U.S. Senate race in Illinois to Stephen Douglas in a vote by the state legislature (the switch to popular election of senators didn’t come until the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913).
In 1962, the day after suffering a humiliating, 52-47 percent defeat to Edmund “Pat” Brown (Jerry’s dad) in a California gubernatorial election, a former vice president and GOP presidential nominee bitterly told reporters, “You won’t have [Richard] Nixon to kick around anymore.”
In December 1974, Jimmy Carter, nearing the end of his one term as Georgia’s governor, embarked on what then seemed a far-fetched effort to become the first Southerner since Zachary Taylor in 1848 to win a presidential election — well, a U.S. one.
In 1976, Ronald Reagan, at 65, appeared to miss his last presidential chance when his challenge against incumbent Gerald Ford for that year’s GOP nomination fell short.
In October 1991, when Bill Clinton announced his presidential bid, the then-Arkansas governor was best known nationally for rambling on so long — 33 minutes — at the 1988 Democratic convention that when he said, “In closing,” the crowd burst into sarcastic applause.
In February 2007, when Barack Obama announced his presidential bid a mere 25 months after becoming a U.S. senator, he was a heavy underdog against supposed shoo-in Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
Not long ago and much closer to home, who would have bet on South Carolinians electing a woman (Nikki Haley) of Indian (as in India) ethnicity as governor and a black man (Tim Scott) to not just to the U.S. House but the U.S. Senate?
Sure, the deck is so stacked against Graham winning the Oval Office that he might not even make the cut, based on polls and money raised, for the first 2016 Republican presidential debate in Cleveland on Aug. 15, 2015.
Still, he’s apparently intent on running, judging from this exchange on the latest “Fox News Sunday”:
Host Chris Wallace: “Carly Fiorina told us a couple of weeks ago that there’s a 90 percent chance that she will get into the race. What’s the percent chance you’re going to get in?”
While Graham’s presidential quest looks quite quixotic, it could raise his odds for being the GOP 2016 vice presidential nominee from none to slim — and bolster far more realistic shots at the Cabinet or Supreme Court.
And hey, some folks didn’t give this newspaper much chance at the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Pop test (answers at column’s end):
1. Name the only S.C. presidential primary or caucus victors who didn’t go on to win their parties’ presidential nominations in those years.
2. Name the Michael Dukakis delegate to the 1988 Democratic Convention who won our governorship six years later.
Haughty analysts decry the alleged degeneration of presidential politics into a sort of “horse race” spectator sport.
Yet in a nation plagued by civic apathy, wouldn’t higher wagering participation — and stakes — on elections elevate public interest in our self-governing process?
For instance, in P.G. Wodehouse’s delightfully subversive “Much Obliged, Jeeves,” the title character gives Bertram Wooster, whom he serves as a gentleman’s gentleman, this update on a race for a British House of Commons seat:
“The tide of popular opinion appears to be swaying in Mr. Winship’s direction. Lord Sidcup’s eloquence is having a marked effect on the electorate and may well prove the deciding factor.”
Citing an account from a fellow butler who “obliged as an extra waiter” at a stirring speech by Lord Sidcup (aka Roderick Spode, aka the Earl of Sidcup) to the Market Snodsbury Chamber of Commerce, Reginald Jeeves adds: “He tells me that, owing entirely to his lordship, the odds to be obtained in the various public houses, which at one time favoured Mrs. McCorkadale at ten to six, have now sunk to evens.”
Too bad Graham’s presidential hopes are apparently not favoured, er, favored, by fate — or by any British lord’s backing.
Meanwhile, what are the odds on the race to replace the man who has been mayor of Charleston since Dec. 15, 1975?
1. Palmetto State natives Jesse Jackson (1988 S.C. Democratic caucus) and John Edwards (2004 S.C. Democratic primary) and Pennsylvania native Newt Gingrich (2012 Republican primary) are the only S.C. presidential caucus or primary winners who didn’t also capture their parties’ nominations.
2. David Beasley, six years after backing Dukakis as a Democrat at the party’s 1988 convention, won the S.C. governorship as a Republican.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.