On Monday morning, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough slammed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for turning to support President Donald Trump, suggesting the senator “sold his political soul” for Republican votes in his state.
A guest on the show had contrasted the old Lindsey Graham, who stood in lock-step with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and firmly against Trump during the 2016 primary, with the new Graham, who stands firmly behind Trump, especially on judicial and border issues.
“Sadly, it’s not really a mystery,” Scarborough cut in. “Lindsey Graham has a Republican primary in 2020.”
“He was having trouble in the state of South Carolina and recent polls show that among Republican senators, he has one of the better approval ratings with the rank and file in the Republican Party in the state of South Carolina,” Scarborough noted. “He basically sold his soul — sold his political soul — for, you know, 20 percentage points inside his own Republican Party. Instead, I guess, unlike John McCain, Lindsey Graham didn’t have the confidence and the assurance in his voters that he can speak truth to power and still get re-elected in his state.”
This question of what moved Graham from the anti-Trump to the pro-Trump column has mystified Democrats. In January, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) suggested Graham is “compromised,” that Trump must have some dirt on him.
Scarborough has shown that liberals need not resort to conspiracy theories to explain Graham’s pro-Trump stance.
Scarborough may see Graham as having “sold his soul,” but the fire in Graham’s belly suggests he’s not just putting on a show. The new “version” of this senator was on full display in the Supreme Court confirmation battle for Brett Kavanaugh. He powerfully denounced the witch hunt against the nominee, declaring, “Why don’t we dunk him in water and see if he floats?”
A Morning Consult poll found that in the wake of Graham’s powerful defense of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his approval among South Carolina Republicans shot up by 43 points. If he “sold his political soul,” he arguably sold it to Kavanaugh as well as Trump.
True, Trump’s approval rating in South Carolina is a staggering 83 percent among Republicans.
Yet Graham’s sea change could also be explained by the increasing radicalization of the Democratic Party, and the hatred directed toward Kavanaugh. The senator himself attributed it to Trump’s success on various policies, like building the military, exiting the Iran deal, destroying the Islamic State, and restructuring the tax code.
Furthermore, Graham’s insistence that Trump declare a national emergency to fund the border wall echoed his mentor, John McCain, who published an ad featuring him walking along the border and declaring, “complete the danged fence.”
Is Graham a cynical politician, or is he genuinely coming around to supporting Trump? Americans may never know. But if you ask me, this seems genuine.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.