South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham officially added his name to the growing list of Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 on Monday, focusing his message on the hawkish foreign policy positions that have made him a leading voice among the Senate GOP.
“I’ve got one simple message: I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary,” Graham said in Central, South Carolina, his childhood home.
The three-term senator is expected to focus his candidacy on combating Islamic militants in the Middle East, stabilizing Iraq and preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He has been highly critical of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has said U.S. intervention abroad led to the rise of ISIS.
“Those who believe we can disengage from the world at large and be safe by leading from behind, vote for someone else. I am not your man,” Graham said.
The Palmetto State lawmaker is the the ninth Republican to officially enter the race and is polling near the bottom of the pack. A Quinnipiac poll released last week found Graham with just one percent support among Republicans.
But polls also show that Graham’s focus on national security will likely resonate with GOP voters. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released last month found that Republican voters think national security should be the number one priority of the federal government.
“I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them,” Graham said.
GOP rivals like Paul and Democrats have sought to tie Graham's views with those of former President George W. Bush.
“Unfortunately for the Republican Party, Graham’s policies are most reminiscent of another GOP leader, George W. Bush. Graham has long been a champion of Bush’s failed economic policies, his disastrous foreign policy and his divisive social agenda. As president, he would embrace them again," the Democratic National Committee said in a statement after Graham's announcement.
Graham also has the benefit of representing a state that holds an early presidential primary, though many Republicans in South Carolina have so far been hesitant to back him.