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Jun 3, 2015 11:27 PM

Steinhauser: Graham flexes muscles at national security forum; says 'if not me, Rubios a good guy'

NH1 Political Director -

MANCHESTER – Lindsey Graham was in his wheelhouse Wednesday, telling an audience that “if I were president, we’d be going after these guys (ISIS and Al Qaeda leaders) day in and day out”

“if you’re an American and your thinking about joining ISIS, here’s what awaits you if I’m president: we’ll kill you if we can and we’ll capture you if we can’t. And if we capture you the last thing you’re going to hear is that you have the right to remain silent,” added Graham as he answered questions at a national security forum organized by Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester.

The event was the final stop of a two-day swing through New Hampshire by the three-term senator from South Carolina, who Monday announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Graham, a longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just stepped down after more than three decades in the Air Force Reserves, is touting his national security and foreign policy credentials and highlighting his hawkish views as he mounts a longshot bid for the nomination in what’s shaping up to be an extremely crowded 2016 Republican field.

In a one-on-one interview with NH1 News following the forum, Graham said “one of the centerpieces of this campaign is that I’m ready to be commander-in-chief on day one.”

“I’ve been working my butt off the past decade to understand this war. Bush made mistakes. Obama’s made mistakes. I’ll make mistakes. But the one mistake I won’t make it to allow this threat to grow over there because stronger ISIL gets over there, the more likely Iran is to get an nuclear weapon, the more in danger we are here,” he added.

Asked what other rivals for the nomination would he be comfortable with as commander-in-chief, Graham said “I think Rubio’s (Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida) a good guy.”

But he added that “I want to hear them do what I did today: tell me how you destroy ISIL without more American combat power in the region working with others. Tell me what you would to do stop the Iranian nuclear threat. Would you replace the defense cuts and how you would do it?”

Graham is facing off against some bigger names with bigger bucks. Asked if billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who shares many of the same foreign policy and national security views as Graham, could come to his aid, the senator said “Sheldon’s been a friend for 20 years. I’m going to have a lot of support from people who believe that national security is the number one issue facing the world, not just the U.S.”

Another way Graham stands out in a GOP presidential field that could easily top 15 is that he’s not married. If elected, he would be the first bachelor in the White House in 130 years.

Asked if America’s ready for a bachelor president, Graham told NH1 News that “I think I’m going to be judged not by whether I’m married or not, but what can I do for your family. Can Lindsey Graham provide the leadership and security that your family needs.”

Graham belittles national polling; hints at secret weapon in New Hampshire

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