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U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham forms presidential exploratory committee

South Carolina Republican highlighting his foreign policy credentials

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

south-carolina mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has formed a committee to explore a bit for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

Graham’s committee, named “Strength through Security,” will enable the senator “to travel the country, listen to Americans, and gauge support for a potential presidential candidacy,” according to an announcement on the group’s website.

Graham, 59, was elected to his third term in the Senate last November, after battling back a gaggle of Tea Party challengers in the GOP primary.

While Graham’s bipartisan work with Democrats has drawn fire from conservative activists in his own party, his hawkish stands on foreign policy and defense issues puts him squarely in the conservative camp.

The website for his new organization calls him “as a conservative problem-solver and one of the strongest proponents of a robust national defense.”

Graham is also a close friend and ally of Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. McCain has been touting a Graham presidential candidacy in the media.

Graham is one of nine Southerners — eight Republicans and one Democrat — considering a White House bid in 2016.

Among the potential Southern GOP candidates are former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas; U.S. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas.

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