IOWA CITY, Iowa — In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and his attacks against Paul are irrelevant.
“It doesn’t occupy a lot of my thought,” Paul said when asked to respond to the detailed vendetta that Graham has launched against him, as detailed by Politico on Friday morning.
When asked if there’s anything else he wants to add to that answer, he said “nope, thanks though.”
Politico blared a headline across its website on Friday morning: “Lindsey Graham’s Strategy: Take Down Rand Paul.”
“South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham may still be weighing whether to run for president, but he already has a strategy — distancing himself from fellow senator Rand Paul,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt wrote. “In TV appearances, on the campaign trail, and even in private fundraisers, Graham, an Air Force reservist and one of his party’s most prominent defense hawks, has gone after Paul repeatedly and by name, casting him as weak-kneed and unwilling to protect the country from aggressors.”
Isenstadt quoted several Graham aides and Graham himself to back his theory that the South Carolina Republican aims to take down Paul.
“In interviews, Graham aides said he was laying out a plan to position himself as Paul’s foil, and will repeatedly contrast his foreign policy positions to that of the Kentucky senator’s more isolationist views, especially in debates,” Isenstadt wrote. “They believe that going after Paul — or ‘putting wood on him,’ in the words of one aide — drives attention to Graham and, at a time of rising concern about threats from abroad, helps establish himself as the hawk of the Republican field.”
Graham himself told Politico that while “it’s nothing personal, not at all” with Paul, his “problem with Rand Paul is foreign policy. He’s a libertarian and I come from a more traditional Republican perspective.”
Graham added that he thinks that Paul is “in many ways is to the left of Barack Obama.”
“Sen. Paul isn’t in a good position to do that [beat Hillary Clinton with what Isenstadt wrote was a ‘robust national defense strategy’],” Graham said. Paul, of course, is the only 2016 Republican presidential candidate polling better than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Iowa right now.
Rick Reed, a GOP establishment operative who once worked for Graham, is heading a Super PAC effort via the Foundation for a Secure & Prosperous America—which has been running a million dollars worth of falsified advertisements against Paul that began running on his first day of his campaign. Paul’s campaign has sent a cease and desist letter to several stations asking them to pull the ads down due their deceptive nature.
Graham denied involvement with the group in his Politico interview, saying: “I don’t know anything about it.”
Paul has touted military might in his speeches early in his campaign for the White House. In fact, when he first visited South Carolina—Graham’s state—he entered GOP establishment territory that Graham usually controls in the Charleston area to speak at the USS Yorktown.
In his interview here with Breitbart News, Paul explained the deeper meaning behind the phrase “third way” which he’s unveiled in several speeches. Paul also hammered Graham and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for being weak on national defense by seeking to increase the national debt.
“I think that you’ve got two groups of people in Washington: The Democrats always want to increase domestic spending, and the Republicans always want to increase military spending,” Paul said.
Neither one of them want to pay for it. What happens is we get a compromise and military spending goes up and domestic spending goes up. That’s why I think the vote we had on the budget is very important and you’re going to hear a lot about it over the next year. One group of Republicans, including one who may announcing next week, want increased defense spending but he’s fine with adding that to the debt. $200 billion worth of new debt to increase defense spending.
We put up an alternative: Increase in defense spending but you pay for it by cutting spending. We are a third way in the sense that debt is an overwhelming problem and it threatens our national security. I’m not willing to increase the debt to pay for defense spending or to increase the debt to pay for welfare spending. If you want more defense spending you got to pay for it by cutting spending elsewhere. This is an issue that may separate me from the pack in that I’m not willing to add to the debt.
Polls seem to agree with Paul that Graham is irrelevant. While the South Carolinian is certainly flirting with running, nobody outside the beltway expects a serious candidacy out of him. As Breitbart News has already detailed, he could lose his home state of South Carolina in addition to failing across the country. With the exception of Graham’s immigration partner Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—the likely next Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate—there’s not another senator in Washington who will lunge faster toward an open microphone to get themselves in the press. Irrelevancy is Graham’s kryptonite.
Not only did Paul himself essentially downgrade Graham’s ego, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign manager Jesse Benton—a longtime Paul-world operative, who’s now heading up a Super PAC effort designed to help the Kentucky Senator’s presidential campaign—hit Graham’s irrelevancy too.
“Punching down third-tier candidates doesn’t often make a lot of sense,” Benton told Politico.
“There will be any number of also-ran candidates who think they can grab attention by biting at Sen. Paul’s ankles,” Benton added in an email to Breitbart News. “I doubt Rand will pay much attention to any of them.”
In fact, recent polls show that Paul is the only Republican declared or thinking about running for president in 2016 who polls better than Clinton in Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania or among independents. Paul’s not wasting his time in the muck. He’s going straight for the main event.