Four low-polling presidential candidates – Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham – met in Las Vegas Tuesday night, knowing they needed to do something big to stand out.
That didn’t quite happen. But Lindsey Graham, a retired Air Force colonel who said he has now been to Iraq 36 times, found new energy in this debate, which focused almost entirely on fighting terrorism and ISIS. Graham said he would try to make friends throughout the world to fight ISIS and that he’s “been working for a decade to figure out how to win this war,” he said.
Graham repeatedly rolled his eyes and shook his head as the other candidates discussed their plans to fight ISIS.
He also hit at Donald Trump when asked about the GOP frontrunner’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. “Donald Trump has done the one single thing you cannot do — declare war on Islam itself. ISIL would be dancing in the street, they just don’t believe in dancing. This is a coup for them and for all of our Muslim friends throughout the world like the King of Jordan and the President of Egypt. I am sorry he does not represent us,” Graham said.
The other candidates also weighed in on Trump’s plan — Santorum said that while he didn’t completely agree with it, the plan is “nothing against Muslims, his comment was against this administration who doesn’t have a policy to properly vet people coming into this country. … He brings up a legitimate issue.”
“Not all Muslims are jihadists and no one including I suspect Donald Trump would say that but the reality is all jihadists are Muslims, that’s a reality,” Santorum continued. “And we have to stop worrying about offending some people and start worrying about defending all Americans because we’re not right now.”
Asked if he would support Trump as the eventual nominee, Graham said he would but “I may sleep late that day if it’s Trump.”
The candidates also discussed domestic surveillance of mosques, defeating ISIS ideologically, and U.S. policy in Syria, whether women should serve in combat, and Syrian refugees.
Asked whether surveillance at mosques would infringe on the First Amendment rights of Muslim Americans, Huckabee said it he didn’t think it would because they are “public places.”