Sen. Lindsey Graham is being touted by some as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate, but the South Carolina senator says he's not interested. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham is touting endorsements from several high-ranking former national security officials — but he has no interest in being one heartbeat away from becoming commander in chief.
The South Carolina Republican, who is running for a third term, tells CongressWatch the eventual GOP presidential nominee should look elsewhere when it comes time to pick a running mate in 2016.
“No,” Graham said with a shake of his head when asked about one day being vice president.
“I mean it’s like you get a car and a house. But other than that, it seems boring to me,” Graham said. “You go to a lot of funerals.”
CongressWatch first raised the idea last month after an exchange with Lexington COO and defense consultant Loren Thompson, during which he suggested Graham was atop a very short list of potential Republican VP contenders.
“Lindsey Graham is one of the few legislators the GOP has produced in recent times who has a genuinely presidential temperament,” Thompson said. “A self-made man — his parents died early — he has a 30-year record of military service and a mature, thoughtful demeanor.
“He would be an excellent running mate for the next Republican presidential candidate,” Thompson said, “having exhibited all of the qualities required to be an effective chief executive.”
Other GOP insiders said they wouldn’t rule it out, even if Graham appears a longshot pick.
But Kyle Kondik, managing editor of “Sabato's Crystal Ball” at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, tells CongressWatch he does not “see Lindsey Graham as a real VP contender.”
“I just think there are big swathes of the party that don’t like him very much for his supposed apostasies on immigration, judicial nominations and other issues,” Kondik said.
Does Graham have national prestige and name-recognition? Absolutely. Would he help the eventual GOP nominee win key states like Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and others? That’s far from clear.
But he is a national figure, as his campaign made clear on Wednesday when it issued a press release touting endorsements from three national security and foreign heavyweights, which Graham has branded the “Peace Through Strength Dream Team.”
The trio were members of the George W. Bush administration, and one even stuck around for a good bit of President Barack Obama’s first term.
Quoted in the release are John Bolton, Bush’s U.N. ambassador; Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security advisor-turned-secretary of state; and Robert Gates, the former Bush and Obama defense secretary.
So, if Graham is both not interested and something of a longshot, what does the early Republican “veepstakes” field look like?
Kondik pointed to three possibilities.
There’s New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez: “The nominee might feel a little pressure to put a non-white man on the ticket. Martinez gets a lot of buzz as a Latina woman from a ‘blue state’ who looks likely to win a second term this year.”
Also making his shortlist is Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, whom he calls “a very competent person from a swing state,” who, like Martinez, would “diversity to the ticket.”
Then there’s Sen. Rob Portman, from the perennial swing state: Ohio.
“One of the most respected minds on the Republican side, Portman has also shown some ideological flexibility recently through his endorsement of gay marriage and his questioning of the drug war,” Kondik said. “Portman is a good bet for a plum role in the next Republican White House if he wants one, as the No. 2 or as something else.”