For a presidential candidate who believes Washington “needs to drink more,” Sen. Lindsey Graham got a good head start at CNN’s Politics on Tap event Tuesday.
Graham got behind the bar, serving up beers in downtown Boulder, Colorado – the site of Wednesday’s Republican debate – before sitting down with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.
The setting was so informal, in fact, that Bash got Graham to play a popular bar game she sanitized as “date, marry, or make disappear forever,” with Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, and Sarah Palin as his choices.
Graham conceded two of the three: He would date Sarah Palin – “we’ll go hunting on our first date” – and marry Carly Fiorina – “‘cause she’s rich; she could keep me in the life I’m accustomed to.” But, Graham wouldn’t quite go so far as to say he would make Hillary Clinton disappear forever.
While he’s had sharply critical words for Clinton in the past, she did make Graham’s list of drinking buddies.
When pressed to give an example of times they’ve drank together in the past, Graham first demurred saying “not on national television,” before conceding and telling a story about Clinton and Sen. John McCain drinking vodka on a congressional delegation trip in Eastern Europe.
“So I’m drinking water pretending its vodka. I had to go to the bathroom before they stopped drinking,” Graham said. “That was pretty impressive. She can hold her own.”
Graham, who grew up in his parents’ bar, used the familiar setting to offer a few words on another former bar-kid, outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, calling him the “happiest man in America.”
When asked about the chances of success for Rep. Paul Ryan, who is expected to be elected Speaker on Thursday, Graham said, “I think he’s a very talented man. God bless him for wanting the job.”
Wednesday’s debate at the University of Colorado in Boulder will mark the third time Graham finds himself in the so-called “undercard debate,” despite his strong performance at CNN’s debate last month at the Reagan Library – a position he finds frustrating, to say the least.
“I think it sucks,” Graham said. “With all due respect, I know there are a lot of us running but I don’t think I’m an undercard candidate when it comes to national security. I think I’ve got something to offer.”
But when asked about how he planned to turn the tide of his campaign, Graham said the plan is “a secret,” even to him.
Graham, who is at 1% in the latest CNN/ORC poll, said the preoccupation with national polling is “hurting the Republican party process.”
And, he applied the same logic to the candidate once expected to be the party’s front-runner, Jeb Bush, who is now down to single digits in national polls.
When asked about the Bush campaign’s move this week to cut staff and salaries, Graham cautioned patience.
“Don’t write Jeb Bush off,” Graham said. “Don’t write any of us off.”