-- The latest Republican presidential candidate to enter the race, war hawk Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently had harsh words for fellow senator and GOP primary opponent Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., over the NSA domestic surveillance program.
Still, if it came down to it, Graham says he would pick Paul over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if the two faced off in the general election come 2016.
“Well, when I came out of my coma, I would support Rand Paul,“ Graham told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “GMA” this morning. “I mean, it would be devastating, I think, for our party to nominate Rand Paul as our nominee on national security, in particular. But if he wins the primary process, I will support him.”
Graham added, however, “that has very little chance of happening, in my view.”
Graham, the ninth Republican to enter the GOP presidential primary, is running on his breadth of experience with foreign policy. Asked to identify an area in which he’s been wrong on foreign policy and what he learned from it, the senator pointed to the war in Iraq.
“I think when we initially went into Iraq I thought the idea that maybe dismantling the Iraqi army was a good idea, [I] didn't ask enough questions about that,” he said. “But after about the second or third trip, I realized that our policies in Iraq were not going well under President Bush. So, yeah, I made my fair share of mistakes, too.”
While announcing his presidential bid in his hometown of Central, South Carolina, Monday, the senator. 59, told supporters, “I’ve got one simple message: I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in the race. That includes you, Hillary.”
When asked why Graham’s view of Clinton, who he past called a national treasure, has greatly shifted in recent years, he explained, “What changed is basically the world is falling apart and she's got her finger prints on it.”
His reputation as a leader in foreign policy aside, Graham remains trailing in the polls, with a new ABC-Washington Post poll out planting him at the back of the candidate pack with 1 percent. But Graham did not seem overly fazed by the numbers on his standing.
“[I’m] just going to have to show up in New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina and sell the idea that I am the most experienced,” he told Stephanopoulos. “I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan well over 30 times; 33 years in the Air Force has taught me well about how our military works.”
“The good news about Iowa and New Hampshire is an anecdote to big money,” Graham added. “You could buy the primary if it were the large states, but you've got to earn your way forward in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, and I think that's where I'll do well.”