Don’t underestimate Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaks to supporters after announcing his bid for presidential election, Monday, June 1, 2015, in Central, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

How steep are the odds against Lindsey Graham’s presidential bid?

He’s trailing Donald Trump in some polls.

But before dismissing our senior senator’s White House candidacy, keep in mind that he’s overcome daunting challenges before — and that numerous presidents have been deemed long shots this early in the process.

Sen. Graham announced his run for the Republican nomination on Monday in his hometown of Central, a few miles east of Clemson. As usual, he presented a clear vision of solutions for the pressing problems facing our nation and world.

He also, however, delivered a moving personal account of his life’s path. Mr. Graham’s parents, who owned and ran a little bar/pool hall in Central, died within 15 months of each other when he was a student at the University of South Carolina. That left his 13-year-old sister Darline in his care.

On Monday, outside the building where that bar had been, Sen. Graham hailed the help he received in fulfilling that defining duty:

“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.”

And the man Sen. Graham is today is a widely respected voice on Capitol Hill for American strength and legislative reason.

He served just one term in the S.C. House before winning the 3rd District U.S. House seat, which he held for four terms before moving up in 2002 to the Senate, where he’s now in his third term. Along the way, unlike far too many lawmakers in both parties, he has consistently championed productive compromises on polarized issues while maintaining a solidly conservative voting record. For example:

He has advocated comprehensive immigration reform. He has advanced judicial-confirmation agreements to fill extended vacancies on the federal bench. He has decried excessive interrogation methods, or as he has succinctly put it, the “torture” of enemy detainees.

Sen. Graham also has repeatedly emphasized, and did so again Monday, these dangerous, ongoing foreign-policy mistakes: retreat from the forces of Islamic radicalism, acquiescence of Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear arsenal and weakness against provocations by Russia and China.

The USC School of Law graduate’s perspective is enhanced by more than three decades as a military lawyer. He resigned from the Air Force Reserve effective Monday, citing the approach of mandatory retirement age — he turns 60 on July 9.

On Monday, he asserted: “I’m ready on Day One to defend our nation with sound strategy, a strong military, stable alliances and steady determination.”

And though he’s emphasizing his impressive background on national security, he also has long sounded the alarm that Social Security and Medicare require sweeping changes. He warned anew on Monday that “both programs are on track to go bust” because “fewer workers are supporting more retirees.”

Recalling that he and his sister “depended on Social Security benefits to survive,” the senator stressed: “We have to fix entitlement programs to make sure people who need the benefits the most receive them. That’s going to require determined presidential leadership.”

Now Sen. Graham’s presidential bid depends on his ability — again — to overcome long odds.

And while he enters the Republican presidential race lacking in poll strength, he packs plenty of personal resolve — and political courage.