Meet Lindsey Graham: Everything You Need to Know (And Probably Didn't) About the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate

Graham is the eighth Republican candidate to enter the 2016 race.

June 23, 2015, 12:59 PM

— -- Name: Lindsey Olin Graham

Party: Republican

In his own words : “I intend to be president not of a single party, but of a nation. I want to do more than make big government smaller. I want to help make a great nation greater."

What he does now: Graham, 59, is the senior senator from South Carolina, serving since 2003. He succeeded Sen. Strom Thurmond, the longest-serving senator in U.S. history. Graham serves on the Senate Appropriations, Armed Services, Budget and Judiciary Committees.

What he used to do: Prior to his career in the Senate, Graham served in the House of Representatives as congressman for South Carolina's 3rd district, the first Republican from that district since 1877. Before his election to Congress, Graham served briefly in the South Carolina statehouse. He holds the record in South Carolina for most votes cast for a single candidate, receiving over one million votes in the 2008 general election. Graham's military service record spans 33 years. He announced his retirement from the Air Force on May 28, 2015, ahead of his 60th birthday, the mandatory retirement age. He retired with the rank of colonel.

Declared as a candidate: June 1, 2015 in Central, South Carolina.

Where he grew up: Graham was born on July 9, 1955, in Central, South Carolina, to Millie and Florence James (F.J.) Graham, who owned and operated a pool-hall known as the "Sanitary Cafe." The family lived in one room in the back of the bar. Eventually, they moved to a trailer and then to a house nearby. He attended the University of South Carolina-Columbia, becoming the first member of his family to attend college, graduating in 1977 with a B.A. in psychology. Graham received his J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1981.

Early experience with loss: While Graham was in college, his mother and father both died. His mother Millie succumbed to Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 52 and his father suffered a heart attack just 15 months later, at the age of 69. In order to provide insurance and benefits to his 13-year-old sister, Graham, then 21, became her legal guardian.

Family tree: Graham has never married. He remains close with his sister, Darline, who he helped raise after the death of their parents when she was 13. Graham has said that in the event of his election, the White House would have a “rotating first lady,” suggesting that his sister along with other friends “could play that role if necessary.” FLOTUS problems notwithstanding, Graham has suggested he would increase the amount of social functions at the White House, stating “I’m a social kind of guy. I think one of the biggest mistakes President Obama made was being a little too distant.”

Almost got married: In a phone interview with the Columbia Herald, Graham discussed how he almost married a flight attendant named Sylvia while he was living in Germany in his 20s on an overseas posting for the Air Force. Explaining why he never married, Graham recently told Politico “It’s something I really don’t know the answer to, other than I think it’s OK. At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong about not being married.”

What he is like as a Senator: Graham has garnered a reputation as one of the most outspoken of the Republican "hawks," outlining an unambiguously interventionist take on foreign policy. During his tenure in the Senate, he has criticized the Obama administration on several national security issues as various as Benghazi, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Iran and Guantanamo Bay. Last month, while discussing the situation in Iraq, Graham said: “At the end of the day, I blame President Obama for the mess in Iraq and Syria, not President Bush." Graham describes himself as a Reagan-style Republican and has been referred to as having an “independent streak.”

His best friend in the Senate: Arizona Sen. John McCain. The two have become close friends, and McCain has jokingly referred to Graham as his “illegitimate son." McCain has long encouraged his presidential ambitions.

Breakout Moment: As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Graham emerged on the national stage during the impeachment trials of President Clinton in 1997, where he was the only Republican not to vote for one of the articles of impeachment. When lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee moved toward a formal impeachment inquiry in October of 1998, Graham famously asked “Is this Watergate or Peyton Place?” Graham also distinguished himself through his role as a member of the famed "Gang of 14," a bipartisan group of senators who in 2005 forged a compromise to avoid the so-called "nuclear option” over a concerted effort by Senate Democrats to filibuster the confirmation of conservative appellate court candidates nominated by President George W. Bush.

Claim to fame: During a discussion on NBC’s "Meet the Press" about Hillary Clinton’s use of private e-mail while she was Secretary of State, Graham revealed: “I don’t email. No, you can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.”

Biggest disagreement with President Obama: Graham has sharply criticized President Obama’s approach to the Iran nuclear negotiations, warning in February 2015 that Obama is on the verge of the "biggest mistake of his presidency." Graham claimed that since nobody in the region "fears or respects” Obama, he will never be able to strike a good deal.

Might have wished for a do-over: At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City in May 2015, Graham addressed the ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations, stating “Everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room. I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying.” The National Iranian American Council was by no means pleased with Graham’s comments, calling on him to apologize and retract his comments.

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