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The Post and Courier - Graham Proudly Running on Record

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The Post and Courier - Graham Proudly Running on Record

Senator describes himself as a problem-solver
By Robert Behre

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said he is seeking a second six-year term based on what he accomplished during his first, particularly when he and fellow senator and Republican presidential nominee John McCain broke party ranks to warn President Bush that the strategy in the Iraq War wasn't working.
Sen. Lindsey Graham

"That's probably my biggest accomplishment at a personal level — to have the guts and vision to say we can lose this war," he said. "I took on my own party with Senator McCain."

Their efforts helped convince President Bush to change tactics, and the resulting surge of troops into Iraq last year helped calm violence there.

"We are winning in Iraq. There's been a phenomenal turnaround," Graham said. "We have not yet won, but we're on the road to victory. And by victory I mean a stable government that is aligned with us and the overall war on terror, a buffer to Iran. Winning in Iraq is hugely beneficial to our national security," he said.

Graham said taking that sort of action, initially unpopular with fellow Republicans who had been blaming the media over Iraq, is what he will continue to do if given another term.

He said he also would work on tough issues such as immigration reform, restructuring the tax codes, revising regulations on Wall Street, pushing for energy independence and changing Social Security before it goes bankrupt.

"I've taken political risk. I've spoken out. I've tried to get 80 percent of what I want and call it a day and try to get the 20 percent later," he said. "I'm a conservative ... but I'm also a problem solver."

Graham said he hasn't met his opponent, Democrat Bob Conley, but he is not taking this race for granted.

"I wouldn't know him if he walked through the door," Graham said. "He represents a style of politics that I totally reject, and that is always finding that our best days are behind us or 'My way or no way.' I really believe that I represent mainstream conservatism and that Democrats and independents may not agree with me on every issue but find me fair-minded. I hope I can be a political leader in contentious times that people can rally around."

Graham's decision to support President Bush's immigration compromise last year, a plan ultimately scuttled, angered the GOP base in South Carolina, but he still was able to beat his primary challenger, Lexington orthodontist and former Republican National Committeeman Buddy Witherspoon by a 2-1 margin.

Because of Graham's close friendship with McCain, some have speculated that he might be offered a cabinet position should McCain win, but Graham said if he's re-elected, he will remain in the Senate.

But other Palmetto State Republicans are excited about how Graham could help the state if he and McCain are elected.

S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, who helped chair McCain's campaign in South Carolina along with Graham and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, said, "Lindsey will probably be one of the few people in the country who will be able to get McCain on the phone at a moment's notice, not quite as readily as Cindy [McCain] will be able to, but close."

Graham said he and McCain are friends "in the real sense of the word, not the Washington sense of the word."

Their election on Nov. 4 would give Graham special access. "That would allow me to do things that I can't do today, quite frankly," Graham said. "I like President Bush very much, but my relationship with Senator McCain is very special. I think South Carolina will benefit, quite frankly."

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