Lindsey Graham's Entry Into Race Could Help Marco Rubio, Hurt Rand Paul

Sen. Lindsey Graham will formally announce his candidacy for president in his hometown of Central, S.C., on Monday, entering the race with the strongest foreign policy resume of any candidate.

Republican strategists give him little chance of winning, but say he could play the role of kingmaker in South Carolina, a crucial early primary state that — with the exception of 2012 — historically picks the Republican nominee.

Graham’s bid is designed to push the muscular foreign policy approach that he and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his close ally, have advocated for years.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, said Graham could become a major player just by virtue of being in the race.

“He has a real chance to be kingmaker in South Carolina, given how crowded this field is. He could also wind up turning this into a Cabinet position, should the Republicans win the White House,” he said.

If Graham pulls out before the South Carolina primary, his endorsement could provide a significant boost to a rival.

O’Connell said South Carolina may wind up as the second-most important primary, given its position ahead of all-important Florida.

“Rubio is putting a lot into South Carolina,” O’Connell said, adding that Rubio wants to perform well in either New Hampshire or South Carolina before squaring off against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the Sunshine State.

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy