As most of the GOP presidential candidates brawled in Milwaukee Tuesday night, one of them sat in front of a computer screen in New Hampshire.
Lindsey Graham, booted from even attending the undercard bout, spoke to ABC News just as festivities were getting underway.
“I would like to be in the debate,” he admitted, “but here’s what I’ve come to conclude: Winning the last two debates hasn’t helped me at all so we’re going to try something new.”
Indeed, Graham’s performance was well received two weeks ago in Boulder, Colorado. But his “all-in” New Hampshire strategy hasn’t boosted his national poll numbers, forcing him to engage in a different way: offering live commentary on Sidewire, an app dedicated to news and analysis straight from newsmakers.
“You can’t think of technology without thinking of Lindsey Graham,” he said with a wry smile.
The South Carolina senator, 60, still predominantly uses a flip phone, even after his previous number was leaked by Donald Trump.
Once the debate was underway, he got to work quickly, offering his own answers to moderators’ questions on the minimum wage, Syria, and job creation. He critiqued his competitors’ performances and responded directly to questions from reporters.
The ever-quotable Graham also dropped a few one liners, advising candidates “no matter what, don’t win the debate, they’ll kick you off the stage.” He also seemed shocked that his friend Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., posted some words of encouragement so late in the evening.
Graham wasn’t alone in trying to carve out a media niche on a night when all eyes were directed toward Milwaukee. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore offered his own live commentary on IJ Review, while former New York Gov. George Pataki gave more traditional interviews.
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“Well, their problem is they’re not interesting,” Graham told ABC News. “I’m an interesting candidate, with many ways to get my voice out there.”
He’s hoping his voice will resonate in New Hampshire. He remains in the state today, where he’ll attend several Veterans Day events. He and Gilmore, the only two military veterans in the race, face lingering doubts over their ability to crack another debate stage between now and the first-in-the-nation primary in February.
But Graham doesn’t see it that way.
“I was knocked out by using a poll that I wasn’t in,” he complained.
An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, used by Fox Business News to determine debate slots, didn’t even ask respondents about Graham. “That was kind of hard to absorb. But the bottom line is, it’s all about New Hampshire.”
He, along with other New Hampshire-centric campaigns like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, insist that traditional retail stops can still propel them to success in the Granite State – and perhaps, with more national name recognition, more debates as well.
“My fate isn’t going to be determined by a debate in Milwaukee,” Graham said. “My fate will be determined by the people of New Hampshire. And I’m going to show up and go to as many places as I can – weddings, funerals, friendly divorces, birthday parties. If you want to see Lindsey Graham, give me a call.”
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