While speaking to the S.C. House Republican Caucus Tuesday morning, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said he was “99.9 percent sure” that he would run for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This was the latest in a series of incremental certainty increases for Graham, as you can see in the graph below:
Here’s a timeline of his public statements on a potential candidacy:
• Oct. 8, 2014: When asked about a potential run, Graham tells the City Paper, “I am nowhere near there. I know what it takes; I don’t idly talk about it.” No percentage value is mentioned, so we’re placing it at … 25 percent?
• April 19, 2015: Graham tells Fox News he’s “91 percent” sure he’ll run for president. “If I can raise the money, I’ll do it,” he says. “I think I got a good message. I think I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy.”
• May 7, 2015: USA Today reports that Graham says he is “98.6 percent sure” he’ll run. The senator is getting mighty specific now.
Graham, South Carolina’s senior senator, has been leading voters along in a game of will-he-or-won’t-he since October 2014, when he hinted at a run in a story in the Weekly Standard, “The Return of the GOP Hawks,” about the resurging prominence of war hawks in the Republican Party.
“If I get through my general election, if nobody steps up in the presidential mix, if nobody’s out there talking — me and [Sen. John] McCain have been talking — I may just jump in to get to make these arguments,” Graham said at the time.
Graham might not have ironclad support in his home state if he runs for president. In a March 2015 Winthrop Poll of South Carolina residents, 60 percent of all respondents said Graham should not run for president in 2016, including 65 percent of registered voters and 57 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents. Respondents expressed greater approval for Graham in his current position, with 34.6 percent saying they disapproved of how he was handling his job in the Senate.