Lindsey Graham: Media Analyst

"If you're making the point that we should be talking about something other than my phone number, good point."

When you’re a candidate likely relegated to the (new) 5:00pm spot instead of the Trump vs. 9 other guys primetime for the Fox Republican debate on Aug 6., you have the mental space, the clarity, to really think through this Hollywood fever dream of a script the 2016 elections have been so far.

Sounding more like a media analyst than a presidential candidate at times, Sen. Lindsey Graham went on the meta in a Morning Joe appearance today, laying out just what’s wrong with our national Trump obsession and the design of the primary debates.

When asked by host Mika Brzezinski about the fact that the 10-candidate debate design will result in the loss of “some key voices in the race,” and that Fox is “manipulating a little bit, either by default or purposefully, the shape of the race,” Graham responded:

The RNC, they’re not helpless here, it is their party. CNN and Fox have come up with the criteria to get in the debate that I think is silly. If my numbers go up, it’s because I call Donald Trump a jackass; that’s not why I want to rise in the polls. The bottom line is I think their criteria in July of 2015 makes no sense: you’re testing celebrity and name id.
Give us all a chance early on to make our case.

I’m not worried about how you manage a TV debate, I’m worrying about how you pick a nominee. Let’s listen to people who’ve got a real wide breadth of experience, including Donald Trump, and make an informed decision.

As a simple illustration of the Trump effect, here is a Google trends graph comparing Google searches for “Lindsey Graham” over the course of the last 30 days. Notice how interest in Graham searches rises, suddenly and steeply, on July 21, the day when Trump publicly gave out out Graham’s digits.

And here is another illustration, this of the fact that no politico can get through a conversation without mentioning Trump, even if it is for the purpose of discussing how ridiculous it is that everything comes back to Trump.

Joe Scarborough’s first question to Graham:

I do wonder though, are you uncomfortable with so much of this Republican primary being about Donald Trump, and Trump insults, Trump being insulted, Trump responding to insults, people responding to insults from Trump’s insults back to their insults. I mean, how much of a crowding out process is this on issues that people in South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire really want to hear about?

Graham’s response:

Joe, I think if you’re making the point that we should be talking about something other than my phone number, good point. … [Hillary] is imminently beatable. The only way we’re going to lose this election is to continue to say things like Donald Trump is saying and having people like me respond endlessly.

Watch the full segment below, in which Graham also addresses some issues, if you’re into that sort of thing: