Lindsey Graham knows of what he speaks when he speaks of Donald Trump.
Despite starting out as one of the former President’s most vehement critics, the South Carolina Republican senator has transformed into one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress.
How did he do it? By understanding the psyche of Trump — knowing what makes the billionaire businessman tick.
All of which is why it’s worth paying attention when Graham talks publicly about what he has been telling Trump in private — as he did in a recent CNBC interview.
“I’m literally telling you what I tell him,” said Graham. “If you lose again, the history about who you are and what you did dramatically changes. If you come back, it will be one of the greatest political comebacks in American history. And if you get four more years, you can do big stuff.”
Remember this: Trump is, at heart, a reality TV producer. He’s forever focused on storylines and narratives — always looking for compelling angles and people. (Part of how he decided on who would make up his original Cabinet was whether they looked the part.)
What Graham is selling Trump on then is just such a storyline — the idea of the former President as the comeback kid. The guy whom voters regretted getting rid of four years prior and now have a chance to right that wrong.
Again, here’s Graham channeling Trump during the CNBC interview: “Remember me? I may not be your cup of tea, but when I was President, our border was secure, we had the lowest illegal crossings in 40 years. I did it.”
It’s an argument that will be compelling to Trump. He is — and has always been — deeply invested in the idea of second chances. In 2006 when Tara Conner, who had won the Miss USA crown, was rumored to have been spotted drinking in bars when she was underage, Trump refused to strip her of the crown. (Trump owned the Miss USA event.)
“I’ve always been a believer in second chances,” Trump said at the time. “She left a small town in Kentucky and she was telling me that she got caught up in the whirlwind of New York. It’s a story that has happened many times before to many women and many men who came to the Big Apple. They wanted their slice of the Big Apple and they found out it wasn’t so easy.”
While in the White House, Trump signed the First Step Act, a prison reform measure that afforded second chances to people who had been previously incarcerated. “We believe that every person has unbound potential,” Trump said in 2020 of the law. “It is therefore important that we offer former inmates who have served their sentences and learned from their earlier mistakes the opportunity for redemption through a second chance to become productive members of society.”
There is, of course, one rather large problem with Graham’s whole comeback kid narrative: Trump is still refusing to admit that he lost the 2020 election.
“Now that the FBI and DOJ have been caught in a massive and determinative Election Rigging Scam, are they going to change the results of the 2020 presidential election?” Trump asked on Monday via his Truth Social website. “They should!!!”
It’s, of course, hard to make a comeback when you can’t admit that you lost in the first place.
But, directionally at least, Graham is right about the shape that a Trump 2024 bid would likely take. It would be a sort of I-told-you-so message, hoping that there is enough buyer’s remorse among people who voted for Joe Biden to put Trump back in office.