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A deepening rivalry over foreign policy between Sen. Lindsey Graham and fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul burst onto the national stage this week when the South Carolina hawk decided to defend an incumbent Democrat against the Kentuckian’s attacks.
After Paul launched TV ads through his political action committee against three Democratic Senators who are up for reelection this year, Graham leapt into action Tuesday and joined Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on a campaign conference call to dispute the ads’ contention that Manchin’s support for foreign aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan is not in the country’s best interest.
On that call, Graham may have made the understatement of the year.
“Rand Paul’s a good man. I like working with him on entitlement reform, but he has a little different worldview than I do,” Graham said.
But Paul was more direct in his response and questioned Graham’s campaign priorities during an interview with Roll Call. Paul said that while he had well-documented differences with the GOP on some policy issues, he would not take the step of supporting Democrats.
Paul was not swayed by the suggestion that Graham entering the fray in West Virginia doesn’t matter because Manchin is a safe bet to prevail in his rematch with businessman John Raese.
“I think that’s the mental gymnastics to justify why he’s supporting a Democrat in the race,” Paul said.
Though he has not yet signaled an intent to go after GOP candidates, RAND PAC would have no shortage of targets on the GOP side — 30 Republicans voted against the Paul proposal. And Paul took the extra step Wednesday of writing an op-ed for CNN that blasted GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s call to arm Syrian rebels who have been fighting a civil war against the regime of President Bashar Assad, even as Paul argued Romney should be elected president.
Like Paul, Graham has been out stumping for Republicans. He joined Manchin’s conference call from the road in North Carolina, where he was campaigning for Romney.
“I very much would like to have a Republican president, and I would very much like to have a Republican-controlled Senate,” Graham said, “but when it comes to foreign policy and matters of war and national security, I really do try to be bipartisan, and I respect Joe a lot.”