Supreme Court Kavanaugh (copy)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., makes a point during a hearing with Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. File/Win McNamee/Pool Image via AP

Could Lindsey Graham be following the path of Strom Thurmond?

When Graham takes over the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman's post next month as is expected, the chance he'll spend years to come as a Washington monument go way up.

Right now the Seneca Republican is 63. Picture him with two more terms under his belt and he's 77.

That's close to the early stages of Thurmond territory, though Graham would still have a long way to go to match Thurmond's record.

The former Dixiecrat and grandfather of the South Carolina Republican Party served until he was 99, leaving the Senate in 2002 after 48 years in office.

That's when Graham moved up as his endorsed successor after eight years in the House.

Graham is getting the judiciary slot, the same one Thurmond held from 1981 to 1987, because current chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is 85, is taking over the Finance Committee. 

Graham's already hinted as to what type of chairman he'll be. 

“Judges, judges and more judges,” he told Fox News, pointing to cementing a conservative bench that's bound to be one of President Donald Trump's lasting legacies.

That means influencing the country's legal course for decades to come.

He's also reminded Democrats how weaponized the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings made the atmosphere — not exactly a foreshadowing of bipartisanship.

He called the GOP's November Senate gains "Kavanaugh's Revenge." 

College of Charleston political scientist Jordan Ragusa said if and when aging Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg leaves the court, Graham then becomes "one of the most powerful people in the country."

Leading the confirmation hearings for a possible third Trump Supreme Court pick would be a monumental event on the conservative side, he said.

Plus, for Graham, there's the added degree of power that goes with being the top voice of authority.

"Members don't challenge (chairmen), even though they might want to," Ragusa said.

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Going forward, Thurmond biographer Jack Bass said it's still too early to put Graham in the Thurmond bracket. But he agrees Graham's popularity gives him the luxury of choosing when to call it quits.

"As long as his health is good, I think he's fine for two more terms, maybe three," Bass said. "Lindsey probably does have a safe seat since he does kind of stand up to Trump, sometimes."

Graham would be seeking a fourth six-year term in 2020. Democrats upset with his Kavanaugh support have promised a challenger and some Republicans to the right of him may even come out. 

Yet, with way-too-early forecasts indicating the Senate appears poised to stay in GOP hands during the next cycle, Graham could easily become a force for years.

He's never been seriously challenged in South Carolina and his recent gluing to the president makes him much more acceptable to the state's ultra-conservative base. 

Still, anything could happen in Graham's future. Democrats could get the Senate majority. Graham could walk away from politics early or be persuaded to join the Trump administration. 

Anyway, voters here like longevity. Democrat Fritz Hollings served 38 years in Washington before he retired from the Senate in 2004.

So for now at least, it appears South Carolina should anticipate having another really old white guy in the Senate.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.