South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and a top adviser are reaching out to Granite State Republican activists in a big way this week, and plans are in the works for a likely visit by Graham to the first primary state within the next several weeks.
Sources told the New Hampshire Journal that Graham has made telephone calls to key state Republicans and that his adviser, Christian Ferry, the former deputy campaign manager for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, has been to the state personally in recent days to make acquaintances and to inquire about the possibility of setting up meetings between Graham and key activists.
Republican National Committee member and Graham friend Steve Duprey confirmed that Graham has made calls to New Hampshire. Duprey will remain neutral in the primary due to his RNC role – despite his friendship with Graham and with Graham’s close friend, supporter and Senate colleague, McCain. Duprey was a top adviser to McCain’s campaigns both in New Hampshire and nationally. He said he has known Graham since 1998.
Duprey said that while his RNC role prevents him from endorsing any candidate in the primary, he will help Graham — and all candidates — get to know New Hampshire as the campaign gets underway in earnest. He said he has offered or will offer to set up events with “100 or so activists in a room” for meets-and-greets with candidates.
“I have been contacted by representatives for Senator Graham,” Duprey confirmed. “He is obviously exploring a potential candidacy and has been in New Hampshire many times, with John McCain in 2000, with John McCain in 2008 and with Senator Kelly Ayotte in 2010. He’s no stranger to the state and I think he could do very well here.”
Duprey said Graham – like McCain – enjoys holding town halls and is comfortable in the setting, which is a key part of campaigning for President in the Granite State.
Graham is currently in the official “testing the waters” phase, but if he runs, “I think he’d be a formidable candidate,” Duprey said. “I don’t think there is anyone else running who would have his depth of experience on defense and foreign policy. Graham is a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Even though Duprey could not endorse Graham, he said, “I hope he gets in.”
Graham adviser Ferry told the New Hampshire Journal in an interview that “there will be a visit soon” by Graham, but he said there are no details to be announced at the moment.
“As part of testing the waters he is talking to as many people who have been active in New Hampshire politics as possible and getting their opinions on a potential run. That. He is obviously taking a serious look at this race, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire,” as well as his home state of South Carolina,” Ferry said.
Graham, who won a third Senate term last November, is a leading advocate for a more aggressive foreign policy and has frequently been at odds likely fellow candidate Sen. Rand Paul on to what degree the U.S. should intervene in matters overseas.
His close friend, McCain, has said he would back Graham if he runs while Ayotte has said she would “be glad to show him around” the state.