Graham’s presidential case

In this June 10, 2014 file photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to supporters after winning the Republican primary, in Columbia, S.C. Graham, a leading Republican critic of President Barack Obama's foreign policy, is pushing new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, unswayed by a White House veto threat and lobbying by Britain's leader. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)

Lindsey Graham evidently isn’t kidding about considering a 2016 presidential bid. And why should he be?

Sen. Graham, reprising a recent theme, said Friday morning on “Fox and Friends” that he expects to decide whether to run for the top job by May, explaining: “I’m going to look long and hard at it. I think I’m well qualified for the job, but it’d be up to the people of my party to make that decision with a lot of good choices.”

That echoed this remark by Sen. Graham last Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We’re not polling, but we set up a testing-the-waters committee under the IRS code that would allow me to look beyond South Carolina as to whether or not a guy like Lindsey Graham has a viable path.”

Some pundits see insurmountable obstacles blocking that path. Yet a fair review of our senior senator’s record shows that his credentials are as impressive as other presumed contenders.

Elected to his third Senate term last year, Mr. Graham also served eight years in the U.S. House after one term in the S.C. House. He has earned high-profile status as an effective critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

However, his well-informed focus on international challenges also moved him to repeatedly — and presciently — point out flaws in President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, including the costly failure to fully consolidate the initial victory in the Iraq war.

An Air Force Reserve colonel in the Judge Advocates General’s Corps, Senate Judiciary Committee member Graham has been a persuasive voice for needed tort reform in civilian courts. And he has raised the misplaced ire of many fellow conservatives for his bold role in advancing judicial appointments through reasonable bipartisan compromise.

Sen. Graham’s consistently hawkish mindset in backing U.S. military action has drawn rising objections in his own party, too.

The loudest complaints against him from the right, though, condemn his push for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for some — but not all — of the estimated 11 million undocumented U.S. residents.

So despite his solidly conservative voting record on most issues, there was ample clamor from the hard right for a 2014 primary attempt to unseat Sen. Graham.

And as political editor Guy Benson wrote of Sen. Graham on the conservative website Hot Air last week: “In what possible universe does he think he’d mount a viable presidential candidacy, especially amid a crowded, talented field?”

But recall that early in 2007 a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois was a long shot to wrest the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton.

And Mr. Graham handily won last year’s GOP Senate primary without a runoff before beating state Sen. Brad Hutto, the Democratic nominee, by nearly 18 percentage points in the general election.

Throughout his Senate and House tenures, Mr. Graham has earned respect on both sides of the aisle for being willing to seek middle ground on hot-button issues during an era of divisive polarization in Washington.

Yes, the man derisively dubbed “Lindsey Grahmnesty” by right-wing radio powerhouse Rush Limbaugh would have a hard time garnering many votes from tea party sorts in Republican presidential primaries.

But Mitt Romney wasn’t exactly a tea party darling, either, and he won the 2012 GOP nomination.

So don’t too quickly dismiss Sen. Graham as potential presidential — or vice presidential? — material.

And with roughly two dozen Republicans either already in the race or seriously pondering taking that plunge, don’t assume that they can’t make room for one more.