As South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham positions himself for a possible 2016 presidential bid, he appears determined to set out his stall as a candid, tough-talking realist in direct contrast to other potential competitors in the field.
"I'm not going to tell people things that they emotionally want to hear that I don't think are going to happen," Graham told Politico
in an interview Tuesday.
He added: "People are picking up on anger and frustration with the president, which I get. They are turning that anger and frustration into an emotional response to try to get people to vote for them. What I'm trying to do is talk about the anger and frustration but also try to get realistic assessments of how we solve these problems."
In what sounded like a jab at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who on Monday announced his candidacy, Graham said, "You can't govern the country based on being angry."
Graham, 59, is a longshot in the race for the presidency, Politico noted. He lacks the name recognition of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the executive experience of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and support from the conservative base that Cruz enjoys.
He has also cast votes that could rub Republicans the wrong way. He voted for both of President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominees, supports Loretta Lynch for attorney general, and supports action on climate change
. He was also one of the architects of the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill, which is unpopular with conservatives.
Nevertheless, he is already acting serious about mounting a bid. He has traveled to the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and set up an exploratory committee called Security Through Strength.
"This campaign will be focused on a heavy dose of realism — surrounded by optimism if we make the right policy choices," Graham told Politico. "It's about what I think is possible in terms of the current political construct and how to grow conservatism. But at the end of the day, it will be focused on problem-solving, which will require a certain level of realism and bipartisanship."
"If I run, we're going to have a debate about what's real and what's not," he added.
Graham's team thinks he has a shot at carrying his home state of South Carolina in the GOP primary, and allies say his hard-line approach to foreign policy could resonate with the public in the current climate.
"I'm trying to lay a realistic picture of the national security and economic threats we face and the solutions that I think are achievable," Graham told Politico.
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