Sep 23, 2015 6:08 PM
NH1 Political Director - NH1.com
MANCHESTER – Moments after touring a defense sub-contracting company, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina started firing away at some of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.
And in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News, Graham said he’s starting to see some “momentum” and increased fundraising from his performance in last week’s Republican presidential debate.
The longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee appeared in his element Wednesday morning as he toured Granite State Manufacturing, a defense sub-contractor located in Manchester’s west side.
The long shot for the GOP nomination told employees that “if I get to be president, you’re going to go back to work big time.”
Graham was in a playful mood at he toured the manufacturing plant and greeted workers. As he walked up to a bomb disposal robot that the company manufactures, Graham joked that “I want to take that thing deer hunting.”
He took the controls of the robot, kidding that he could use it against the media.
Graham knocks Kasich and Fiorina
But later, after touring the plant, Graham was serious as he took shots at fellow Republican presidential candidates.
Graham told reporters that “we have candidates on our side, John Kasich in particular, went to Portsmouth and said we need more base closures, we need a base closure commission to keep people on their toes. I don’t think John realizes how shaky our defense are, how bad shape we are militarily and how hard they work at Portsmouth. I want to tell the people at the Portsmouth naval shipyard and all across the country, to those civilians who are supplying our military with the best equipment possible that I’m not worried about keeping you on your toes, that I want to have your back.”
Graham was reacting to recent comments the Ohio governor made at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard regarding the Base Realignment and Closure process. Kasich, who like Graham is spending a lot of time campaigning in the Granite State but who unlike Graham has seen his poll numbers rise, said "I think the concern about base closings and BRAC makes everyone more efficient,” adding that it "keeps everyone on their toes."
Asked by NH1 News what his message would be to the Ohio governor, Graham said “I don’t think that John Kasich gets where the world is at, that the dangers to this country do not justify gutting the military and when you suggest that we need to close bases, you really don’t understand how our footprint actually is, we need to increase our military footprint around the world because the threats are growing around the world.”
The Kasich campaign responded to Graham, telling NH1 News that “the senator is deliberately misstating the Governor’s position. He’s saying things that simply aren’t true. Governor Kasich has been clear that we must grow our navy and eliminate the budget gaps caused by sequestration. Our military must be rebuilt after too many years of decline. We must end the punishing budget cuts that are weakening our nation and make the Pentagon more efficient to better direct resources to our troops in the field.”
Graham also questioned Carly Fiorina’s commander-in-chief credentials. Describing her stance on battling ISIS in Iraq, Graham told NH1 News that “she says ‘I’m not ready yet to commit troops on the ground, more boots on the ground, we’re not there yet.’ Well I don’t know, if we don’t’ do it soon, we’re going to pay a heavy price. So I don’t know if she has the same understanding as I do about the state of this war. It’s up to her to prove that she is ready to be commander in chief. We need ground troops, more of them, in Iraq, and eventually in Syria. Syria’s hell on earth.”
Fiorina, a former chief executive officer at Hewlett Packard, has seen her poll numbers soar in a CNN/ORC poll conducted after she won rave reviews for performance in last week’s prime time debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
Graham sees ‘momentum’
Thanks to poll numbers hovering just under one percent, Graham didn’t make the cut for the prime time showdown, but pundits applauded his performance in the undercard debate. Graham told NH1 News that he’s getting a bounce out of the debate.
“The momentum is real. People starting sending money. I think they enjoyed the message. I tried to be a little bit funny but also serious about our foreign policy and trying to find a way to bring us together. The key to me is New Hampshire. I’m trying to meet as many people as I can and just keep doing what I’m doing,” he said.
Graham was also asked about Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who ended his GOP presidential bid earlier this week. Walker urged others in the large Republican field to call it quits.
“I agree with him. I think they should all drop out expect me,” Graham joked.
Asked by NH1 News if he’s considering taking Walker’s advice, Graham said “I appreciate what he had to say but I’m sticking into this.”
Graham slams Carson, Trump, and Clinton
Asked about Ben Carson’s controversial comments over the weekend that he would “not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Graham said “I don’t agree with Dr. Carson. There are 3,500 American Muslims in uniform today. I have served with them in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them have paid the ultimate price. I honor their service. Can one of their children grow up to be president. Yes I definitely believe so.”
“When you say things like this it hurts us abroad. We have thousands of soldiers stationed in the Mideast. We should be a country respectful of all religions. I am,” Graham said, adding “when you say things like this I think it means you’re not ready to be commander-in-chief.”
Carson has said his comments were taken out of context.
Graham also slammed Donald Trump for failing to correct a question from a member of the audience at a town hall the GOP front runner held in Rochester last Thursday. The Trump supporter said that President Barack Obama was a Muslim and not an American.
“Our president is still our president. I think he’s been a very bad president when it comes to domestic matters and foreign policy in particular, but the office deserves respect. I do not doubt President Obama’s Christian faith and I do not doubt that he was born in Hawaii,” Graham declared.
Then Graham said “it is now time for Mr. Trump to come clean on whether he believes President Obama was born in Hawaii, and if he has any doubts, share those doubts with us because I don’t think you can be elected president of the United States if you hold these kind of views and the problem with Mr. Trump, in many ways he’s a political coward. He doesn’t want to take people on who hold these extreme views cause he’s afraid of alienating them. Part of leadership is to tell people what you think and push back when somebody says something outrageous.”
Graham also fired away at Hillary Clinton’s announcement Tuesday that she opposes the construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport Canadian crude oil to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The former Secretary of State had been repeatedly criticized by Democratic nomination rivals Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who oppose the pipeline, for not taking a stand.
“I think she is worried about a primary. I think she’s giving into the left. I think her campaign is imploding. I think she did this the day the Pope came to try and hide the fact that she won’t build a pipeline. Well Hillary you’re not going to be able to hide from the American people,” Graham said.
“The Canadians are going to sell the oil to the Chinese if we don’t buy it. So saying no to the pipeline is giving in to environmental extremists. Giving into a version of global climate change that is not rational. It shows that she’s feeling the pressure from Bernie Sanders and that she is playing politics with our national security. She will not be able to hide the fact over time that she’s rejecting building a pipeline that would create American jobs and make us energy independent because she’s afraid of the left. In many ways she’s cow-towing the left like a lot of our guys are cow-towing to the right,” Graham continued.
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