It's one of the newest punchlines in Washington: Lindsey Graham is running for president.
Last month, a Quinnipiac poll on Republican presidential contenders found the South Carolina senator near the bottom of the list, with a mere 1 percent of the vote. In January, when Graham was mulling a run, one fellow senator joked he wished he could see a list of Graham's supporters.
Freshman Republican senators such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio have for months used their Capitol Hill gigs to jockey for the job they want and have won attention from national media. By comparison, Graham—who announced his run Monday—is late to the game. But his colleagues say that doesn't matter. Graham's entry into the race gives foreign policy hawks more assurance that the GOP is not going to stray from its core philosophy come primary season.
"I don't think you should underestimate Senator Graham," Majority Whip John Cornyn said. "It is just that his focus has been on his state and on the issues he cares about. He has not been running for president or talking about running for president for a long time, so I think he is going to surprise a lot of people."
Graham is hardly an inexperienced politician. Colleagues say he's got an unparallelled depth of experience on foreign policy, especially compared to his competitors in the Senate, who have had less time in the upper chamber to build their foreign policy credentials. Some have had their big moments: In December, Rubio blasted the Obama administration's decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. And in recent weeks, Paul has used the Patriot Act to bill himself as the candidate against government surveillance.