Graham: McCain Veering Right So He Can Get Re-Elected

Lauren Victoria Burke

In his new profile piece in the New York Times, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said something very interesting about one of his top allies, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): McCain is moving right because of the challenge against him in the Republican primary from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

As we noted, Graham predicted that the Tea Party movement will die out, saying it has no actual vision for governing the country. But that’s not all Graham had to say. Here’s the exchange about McCain:

I observed that if this conversation about how to resolve tough issues were taking place in 2006, I would likely be having it not with Graham but with his friend and legislative mentor, John McCain. “Totally agree,” he responded. “I mean, I was the wingman, O.K.?” But, he acknowledged, things are different now: “John’s got a primary. He’s got to focus on getting re-elected. I don’t want my friend to get beat.”

I asked whether he was giving McCain a pass on anything risky this year.

“Yeah,” he said. Graham added that he was thinking about a question I recently asked him: would he be so out there, in a bipartisan way, if he were facing re-election this year rather than four years from now? “The answer’s probably no.”

On another subject, Graham talked about the theatrical elements of politics, in which Senators and other political figures of opposite parties will privately work together while vigorously attacking each other in public. He credited the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) as a skilled practitioner of this — and President Obama, too. “The president has said very nice things about me off the record to other reporters,” said Graham.

Graham also commented on the Nevada Senate race, making it clear that he’s much different from candidates like Sharron Angle. “If you look at the Republicans who are likely to come into the Senate in 2010, they’re gonna be more like me, not less like me,” Graham said. But he quickly caught himself and added: “Now, this lady from Nevada? Probably not.”

And Graham also laughed off the rumors that he is gay, as when a Tea Party activist in his native South Carolina publicly accused Graham of working with Democrats on immigration because he was afraid of being outed. “Like maybe I’m having a clandestine affair with Ricky Martin,” he said. “I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men — I’m sure hundreds of ’em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge — but I ain’t available. I ain’t gay. Sorry.”