Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), shut out from tomorrow's Republican presidential debates in Wisconsin, is forging ahead with his campaign plan: Convince the voters of New Hampshire that he's the sensible, moderate, ISIS-destroying choice. His vessel is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the two-time winner of the New Hampshire primary, and the only voice in Graham's first TV spot (until the inevitable "I approve" disclaimer).
"The people of New Hampshire have always been very good to me, and you've always appreciated straight talk," says McCain in the ad. Over discordantly twinkling music, the viewer sees images of Graham in his Air Force reservist role, and hears McCain say that he's the only candidate "prepared to be a commander-in-chief that's worthy of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform."
McCain's early and immediate endorsement of Graham, a close friend and ally, effectively took the GOP's 2008 nominee out of the kingmaking process. It's also distinguished Graham from other lower-tier candidates — even though George Pataki, the former New York governor joining Graham on the no-debate bench this week, worked early to get New Hampshire endorsements.
"I'm not going anywhere," Graham said. "I'm going to stick to what I'm doing. I've always thought that using national polls for [debate] selection is ridiculous."
Graham's campaign said that the ads would start airing today, in a "significant buy." His war chest, built on the one that got him through a 2014 Senate reelection, is about $1.6 million, putting him closer to the middle of the 2016 pack than the bottom.