Sen. Lindsey Graham was in a cheeky mood Friday night as he delivered several light-hearted swipes at his ally Donald Trump.
While speaking to a conference center full of Jewish voters in Las Vegas, Neada, the South Carolina senator said it took him a while to warm up to the former president, who he now faces in his third bid for the White House have supported.
Once upon a time, Graham ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary and had some harsh words against his rival at the time.
“I want to say something about Trump,” Graham said Friday. “He’s a handful.”
“But all the bad guys are afraid of him, and I’m happy about that,” the lawmaker added in his remarks, which focused on foreign policy in the Middle East amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
Graham spoke Friday night at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership summit at the conclusion of the Shabbat dinner.
Senator Lindsey Graham made a series of light-hearted jokes about Donald Trump on Friday during a speech at a Jewish conference in Las Vegas, Nevada – including calling him a “handful” and an “asshole.”
Between his sentences about Trump, Graham giggled, smiled or laughed a little with the crowd. “It feels good to laugh,” he once remarked.
“So what happened to me and Trump?” Graham asked with a knowing grin.
The comment is ironic considering this is the question many Republicans have asked when it comes to Graham and Trump’s turbulent relationship over the years.
Graham, once a staunch critic of the former president, is now vehemently behind Trump. However, some speculate that he still doesn’t exactly have the best view of the president. Despite his jokes on Friday, Graham says he “liked” Trump.
“I was one of the 29 people who ran for president in 2016,” Graham recalled, exaggerating the crowded GOP primary field — but not by much.
“If you don’t remember, it’s not your fault, I didn’t last long,” Graham said self-deprecatingly.
“I hated Trump,” he said to uproarious laughter from hundreds in the Jewish voting bloc as he struggled to suppress his own giggles. “I thought he was a complete asshole.”
“So I met the guy. We play a lot of golf together. “I actually grew fond of him,” he said.
“Do you know what we have in common? I like him and he likes him.’
Despite his early support of Trump in the 2024 primary, it is not immediately clear whether Graham even wants him as a candidate anymore.
It’s also unclear whether the senator’s jokes Friday night were true.
There are about a dozen other Republicans running for the GOP nomination in 2024, but none have managed to come close to closing the gap with Trump in the polls.
“We have a group of people seeking the Republican nomination who are incredibly talented – vote wisely,” Graham said.
Then he added with a laugh: “And we have Donald Trump who will be here tomorrow.”
The relationship between Graham and Trump has been in flux since they competed against each other in the 2016 presidential primary. But Graham was an early supporter of Trump in his recent run for the White House
“He called me this morning. He said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I’m in Las Vegas.’ He said, ‘I’m coming to Las Vegas.’ I said, ‘I know,'” Graham said.
The South Carolina senator recognized two other Palmetto Staters who ran in the primary — Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley, who was also a U.N. ambassador under Trump.
Graham’s comments were full of playful jabs at Trump on Friday, a day before the former president was scheduled to make his own remarks to the same group of Jewish voters.
Haley and Scott will also speak on Saturday.