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White House Brief: Things to know about Lindsey Graham

FILE - In this April 18, 2015 file photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks in Nashua, N.H. Graham all but confirmed Monday that he will run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. In an interview on "CBS This Morning," Graham said he'd make the official announcement June 1 in his hometown of Central, South Carolina. But he also used the phrase "I'm running," explaining that he believes he would make the best commander in chief. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday he’ll announce his campaign for president next month, saying he’s running for the Republican nomination because, “I think the world is falling apart.” Here’s a snapshot of things to know about Graham.



An Air Force veteran and reservist, Graham is a foreign-policy hawk who recently called President Barack Obama “a small-minded guy in big times.” Yet this outspoken member of the conservative class that swept into Congress in 1994 will, at times, join with Democrats on high-profile votes. He backed a 2012 immigration overhaul and voted for the October 2013 deal that ended a partial-government shutdown and raised the nation’s borrowing limit. “We’re a right-of-center nation. We’re not a right-ditch nation,” he said. He also supported both of Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court. “Elections have consequences,” he explained.

Graham is also a technology throw-back: When Republican candidates were racing to blast Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email account during her time as secretary of state, Graham revealed that he’d never sent an email.



Graham, 59, has been in the Senate since 2003, after serving four terms in the House. His political rise was part of the South’s decades-long shift to the GOP: He served one term in the South Carolina legislature before winning a congressional seat in 1994 that Democrats had held since 1877. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Carolina and spent six-and-a-half years as an active-duty Air Force lawyer. As a reservist during the first Gulf War, Graham was called to an active duty, state-side assignment as a staff judge advocate. He recently announced plans to retire from the Air Force Reserve.



Central is a town of about 5,000 people in conservative upstate South Carolina, and it was much smaller when Lindsey Olin Graham was born in 1955. Graham’s parents, who ran a restaurant and bar, died when he was 21, leaving him to raise his teenage sister Darline as he worked to become the first member of his family to graduate from college. Graham is single, but Darline Graham Nordone argues with passion that her brother is a family man. “It was hard when we lost my Mom and my Dad,” Nordone said in a 2014 political ad. “Lindsey assured me that he was going to take care of me. … He never let me down. Never. I don’t see how he did it, to take on that responsibility of raising a little sister. That came from within for Lindsey.”



Graham is a regular on the Washington talk show circuit, armed with a colloquial manner and plenty of one-liners. But his seminal political moment may have come last June, when he defeated six Republican primary opponents despite several Republican county committees adopting censure resolutions blasting him as an apostate on issues ranging from immigration to taxes. He took 56.4 percent of the vote and a majority in every county, allowing Graham to point to widespread strength among those voters who know him best. Yet Graham is still viewed as something of a longshot: some polls still don’t include him on their list of potential GOP nominees.



As he visits Iowa and New Hampshire, Graham has not backed away from positions that separate him from the GOP’s conservative base. At a recent stop in New Hampshire, Graham said he won’t abandon his call for a comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes both improvements in border security and a path to legal status for the millions of people living in the country illegally. “All I can say is that we need to fix immigration. It’s a national security issue, it’s a cultural issue and it’s an economic issue,” he said. “I am not going to give an inch on the idea.”



A rarity among presidential candidates: Graham hasn’t yet written a book (or had an author ghost-write one for him).



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