HomePoliticsDonald Trump and Lindsey Graham disagree again, this time over abortion. ...

Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham disagree again, this time over abortion. The fight could help both men

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The long and sometimes quixotic relationship between Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham has turned negative again after the South Carolina senator criticized the former president for refusing to support a federal abortion ban.

Trump has repeatedly disparaged Graham on his social media site and said he regretted supporting the senator during his last re-election campaign. Graham, a staunch opponent of abortion who has pushed for a national ban, did not shy away from his criticism, saying Trump’s position was a “mistake.”

But some observers of the Trump-Graham dynamic think both Republicans are benefiting from their public battles.

For Trump, they say, creating public distance from anti-abortion advocates could help him blunt President Joe Biden’s attacks on an issue that Democrats have long credited for election victories since the U.S. Supreme Court, with three Trump-nominated justices, overturned Roe v. Wade. . Graham, meanwhile, gets to burnish his conservative, bona fide beliefs against years of criticism from his home state that he is too liberal.

State Rep. John McCravy, a Republican who sponsored South Carolina’s new law banning most abortions after six weeks, said he couldn’t see how the back-and-forth with Trump or Graham would really hurt voters.

Trump “wants to get elected, and I think the moderate impression helps him get elected,” McCravy said. that to show that he is not an extremist.”

Spokespeople for Trump’s campaign and Graham’s Senate office did not immediately comment when asked Friday about the squabble.

A broken mobile phone; a vow to ‘count me out’

The two had an argument before.

That’s how they started in the 2016 campaign, when both were seeking the presidential nomination. Shortly after Trump launched his bid, Graham questioned Trump’s mental fitness for office, calling him an “idiot” who “shouldn’t be commander in chief” for making disparaging comments about the then-senator. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of Graham’s closest allies.

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While campaigning in Graham’s home state a day later, Trump opened a rally by calling Graham a “lightweight” and “idiot” before reading out the senator’s private phone number to the delight and disbelief of the crowd. The move prompted Graham to mock the destruction of the device after being inundated with angry messages.

Graham ultimately gave up his own presidential efforts and did not attend the 2016 convention. He said he would not support either Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and that the Republican Party had been “conned.”

But after Trump’s election, Graham was all in. He became one of the president’s closest confidants in the Senate and a frequent golfing partner. Graham said there was “an obligation” to help a president, especially a fellow Republican, and told The Associated Press in a 2018 interview that he warmed to Trump and suggested he had used that relationship to influence decisions to give shape. Graham did not provide details.

“I’ve tried to be helpful where I can because I think he needs all the help he can get,” Graham said. “You can be a better critic when people understand that you are trying to help them be successful.”

Graham helped guide the three Supreme Court nominees who were in the conservative majority that overturned Roe in 2022. This included Brett Kavanaugh, who defended Graham against sexual assault allegations. Graham called the Senate Judiciary Committee’s proceedings as it unfolded “the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”

That turn toward Trump paid off when Graham ran for re-election in 2020. The senator’s popularity among Republicans in his home state grew as he developed a relationship with Trump.

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In the days after that election, when Trump lost to Biden, Graham would become involved in Trump’s legal troubles. Graham was ordered to testify before a special grand jury investigating whether Trump and others illegally tried to influence the vote in Georgia. Trump and others were ultimately accused of trying to interfere with the outcome.

Not long after, Graham would go to the Senate to bid an emotional farewell to Trump’s term, saying he believed the then-president should come to terms with his own role in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol and that the whole matter a disappointing “self-inflicted wound” during the final days of the government.

“Trump and I have had an amazing journey. I hate ending this way. Oh my God, I hate it,” he said. “From my point of view, he has been a consistent president, but today you will see it first. All I can say is: deal with it, enough is enough.”

A union of mutual ease

Just weeks later, Graham visited Trump at his home in Florida. And Graham supported Trump as the former president launched the final campaign in the White House and faced a succession of criminal charges.

Dating for more than a decade, Graham has been criticized by South Carolina conservatives, who have accused him of going toe-to-toe with Democrats on issues from immigration and bank bailouts to gun restrictions and climate change. But he also sticks to Republican priorities on national security and strong defense of allies against Russia and China, and defends Trump when he is criticized for suggesting he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies who he considers delinquent.

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Trump’s support helped blunt some conservative backlash in 2020, as Graham overcame both key challenges from the right and the best-funded Democratic opponent in history — Jaime Harrison, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee — to win by double digits victory sailed even as Trump lost.

Graham joined Trump’s leadership team in South Carolina for the 2024 campaign, and Trump easily won the first primaries in the South.

But anti-Graham voices among Trump supporters have grown louder.

While campaigning for Trump in early voting states, Graham drew boos at rallies in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where Trump supporters mocked Graham for more than five minutes during his remarks in July. After Trump’s victory in South Carolina in February, Trump introduced his ally as someone who “happens to be a little further left” than his other supporters, adding: “I always say, when I’m in trouble on the left, I call Lindsey Graham.”

With his seat in 2026, Graham may be thinking about the disaffected conservative votes he will likely face during his campaign, said conservative strategist Dave Wilson.

“You know when you have two people who have never danced before, but they both know how to do salsa, and the music starts playing, and they just know how to dance?” Wilson asked. ‘That’s how it is. Trump and Graham know how to do the Washington dance, and they do it effectively. They know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it on purpose.”

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Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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