Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking in Manchester, N.H. (Photo: Jim Cole/AP)
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham says he cannot fathom how real estate magnate Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are dominating the GOP presidential primaries.
Graham provided cutting assessments of their lack of political experience, foreign policies and overall temperaments during a wide-ranging interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Monday.
“On our side, you’ve got the No. 2 guy [who] tried to kill someone at 14, and the No. 1 is high energy and crazy as hell. How am I losing to these people?” he said.
The Republican presidential candidate, who has been struggling in national polls, was referring to the time when Carson stabbed one of his high school classmates, an incident he has discussed openly.
Toward the end of the interview, Graham joked that he should start moving up in the polls because he — unlike Carson — has never tried to kill anyone.
“And I’ve tried to murder no one ever, so this should move me up a little bit,” he joked. “Well, the day’s not over, but as of right now, nobody.”
Graham has outlined his approach to national security, the central issue to his campaign, in great detail. He blamed Trump’s and Carson’s political inexperience for what he considers to be misguided or grossly underdeveloped foreign policies.
“Just look at Donald Trump’s foreign policy. What is it? What is he going to do about ISIL? What is it? What is it? What is his game plan to destroy ISIL? Does anybody know?” he said.
Graham, right, and Sen. John McCain play the roulette wheel at a charitable gaming poker room in Manchester, N.H. (Photo: Jim Cole/AP)
Trump has said he would bomb the oil fields in Iraq and Syria to take away the Islamic State’s wealth, but has repeatedly declined to elaborate on his strategy because he feels publicly discussing military strategy helps the enemy.
As for immigration — the issue Trump dragged to the forefront while announcing his candidacy — Graham called the party frontrunner’s position “hateful and illogical.”
“There’s a reason 75 percent of Hispanics disapprove of this guy,” he said. “We will get slaughtered if he’s the nominee. So if you give a damn about winning, pick someone who doesn’t dig the hole deeper with Hispanics.”
As the election draws closer, Graham said, experience will start to matter more and people will realize that these candidates who have never held elected office are not prepared to be commander in chief.
“Like Ben Carson said he would have declared energy independence as the reactions of 9/11. That’s kind of different,” he said. “You know, ‘I hereby declare,’ you know, bullhorn out here at the World Trade Center, ‘I hereby declare energy independence’ is not what I would be looking for. I think Bush got it right. So, Dr. Carson is a fine man. But his foreign policy is hard for me to follow.”
Primary polls consistently show Trump and Carson in the first and second spots, respectively. Graham, on the other hand, is usually floundering toward the bottom of the pack.
An Ipsos/Reuters poll released last Wednesday showed that if the election were held today, 31 percent of Republicans would vote for Trump, 18 percent would vote for Carson and only 1 percent would vote for Graham.