Lindsey Graham launches 2016 bid

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Lindsey Graham, in His Own Words

CENTRAL, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has kicked off his presidential campaign.

He launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the small South Carolina town called Central, where he grew up.

He told supporters Monday: "I'm ready. I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us."

Graham is a prominent Senate voice in seeking a more muscular foreign policy. He wants 10,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq to stabilize a world that he's characterized as "falling apart."

Graham is an outspoken member of the conservative class that swept into Congress in 1994. But he's joined with Democrats on some contentious votes.

He backed a 2012 immigration overhaul and voted to end a 2013 partial government shutdown.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

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Lindsey Graham launches 2016 bid
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, Saturday, May 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
FILE - In this March 12, 2015 file photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republican senators eyeing the presidency split over the renewal of the Patriot Act surveillance law, with civil libertarians at odds with traditional defense hawks who back tough spying powers in the fight against terrorism. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during the 2015 Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum March 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. Prospective 2016 presidential candidates from both political parties participated in the presidential forum during the conference which hosted by the International Association of Fire Fighters. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., listens during a news conference on the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Four powerful Republican senators are pushing for new restrictions on President Barack Obama's ability to transfer terror suspects out of the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Vice President Joe Biden shares a laugh with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. before Biden administered the Senate oath during a ceremonial re-enactment swearing-in ceremony, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., talks to volunteers at the Aiken County Republican Party office on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, in Aiken, S.C. Graham is spending his last weeks of the 2014 campaign trying to get his voters o vote instead of trying to get new voters to his side. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
FILE - This July 24, 2014, file photo shows Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as he listens to other Senators speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a news conference on the violence in the Mideast. Islamic militants' growing influence in Iraq and Syria are a threat to Americans, lawmakers from both political parties agreed Sunday even as they sharply disagreed on what role the United States should play in crushing them. (AP Photo, File)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), left, speaks to the media about national security as North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis, right, listens, during a news conference in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, right, and his Democratic challenger state Sen. Brad Hutto, left, shake hands after discussing the issues for the first time at a forum sponsored by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. The two disagreed sharply on the issues at times, but kept it polite. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, right. listens as his Democratic challenger state Sen. Brad Hutto, left, answers a question as the two discuss the issues for the first time at a forum sponsored by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. The two disagreed sharply on the issues at times, but kept it polite. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis, right, speaks about national security as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), left, listens during a news conference in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
South Carolina Adjutant General Robert Livingston, left, listens as U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, right, talks about a bill passed by Congress to improve health care for veterans on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. Graham said the most important part of the bill is the ability to fire poorly performing employees. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., center, talks with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., left, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 24, 2014, following a news conference on the violence in the Mideast. (AP Photo)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., right, speaks during a news conference on the violence in the Mideast on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 24, 2014. At left is Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., left. (AP Photo)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to supporters after winning the Republican primary, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. Graham defeated six tea party challengers. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to supporters after winning the Republican primary, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. Graham defeated six tea party challengers and avoided a runoff. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, after attending a closed-door briefing with intelligence officials. Senate Republicans have been highly critical of the Obama administration’s decision to swap five members of the Taliban for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a campaign stop at American Legion Post 20 on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Greenwood, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at the Susan B. Anthony List "Campaign for Life Gala and Summit", a gathering of anti-abortion advocates, in Washington, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham talks to students at Winthrop University about foreign policy on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Rock Hill, S.C. It was one of a number of events for the senator as he kicked off his 2014 re-election campaign in earnest. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, left, speaks as John McCain listens during a press conference at the David Citadel hotel in Jerusalem, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. Republican Sen. McCain said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "serious, serious concerns" about parts of the proposal Secretary of State John Kerry is using to broker peace with the Palestinians. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
United States Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., answers a question during a news conference in Goose Creek, S.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. The senator said while South Carolinians and the rest of the nation are weary of war, the situation in Syria demands an American response because events there are linked to the developments in the rest of the Middle East. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this Sept. 3, 2013 photo, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham talks to a reporter following a speech to business leaders in Goose Creek, S.C. Graham is facing three challengers in the 2014 Republican primary for his seat. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
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Lindsey Graham will formally launch his bid for president in the small South Carolina town where he grew up. His White House ambitions are rooted half a world away in the Middle East.

When kicking off his campaign Monday, South Carolina's senior senator is sure to blast President Barack Obama's withdrawal of troops from Iraq, insist on the need to strong-arm Iran over its nuclear program and work to subdue the violent Islamic State militants who have gained footholds in Iraq and Syria.

Yet in the early days of the 2016 campaign for president, Graham has already gone further than most of his rivals for the GOP nomination in saying how he would tackle such problems, while acknowledging the potential costs of his strategy.

Graham wants to put an additional 10,000-plus U.S. troops into Iraq, adding to the several thousand there now working as trainers and advisers only. He says it could take even more troops to stabilize the Middle East over time, adding "more American soldiers will die in Iraq and eventually in Syria to protect our homeland."

The Islamic State militants, Graham argued at a recent campaign stop, "want to purify their religion and they want to destroy ours and blow up Israel. Every day they get stronger over there, the more likely we are to get hit over here."

He added, "I don't know how to defend this nation, ladies and gentlemen, with all of us sitting here at home."

It's a calculated risk for the 59-year-old three-term senator and retired Air Force lawyer who surprised many when he began to hint earlier this year he would run for president.

A February poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found 63 percent of adults backed some kind of military campaign against the Islamic State group, compared to 30 percent who disapprove. When asked about using ground troops, support dropped to 47 percent - with 49 percent opposed.

Further, the same survey found Americans almost evenly divided on whether military force is "the best way to defeat terrorism" or whether it "creates hatred that leads to more terrorism."

Graham's hawkish approach stands in stark contrast to his fellow U.S. senator and presidential candidate, Kentucky's Rand Paul, who favors less military intervention abroad. It's also notable for its specifics, especially his warning that U.S. troops are likely to perish in the Middle East as part of his approach.

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a recent speech in Georgia that "we should work with our allies that want to stand against ISIS," he's described that role as helping with the "weapons, equipment and training" needed for a "long fight."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he'd "take the fight to them before they take the fight to us," but he has yet to detail what that entails. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, writing over the weekend in The Washington Post, said the U.S. should increase the number of American troops in Iraq, but unlike Graham, didn't say how many ought to deploy.

While Graham barely registers now in national polls that will be used to determine which candidates are invited to the GOP's presidential primary debates beginning this summer, he argues Republican voters will reward him for his blunt talk about future American casualties.

"Look, I know from polling that (national security) is the No. 1 issue in Iowa and New Hampshire" among likely GOP voters, he said. "And I've been more right than wrong," he adds, noting that he was an early supporter of the troop "surge" in Iraq under President George W. Bush and was always critical of Obama's effort to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Graham hammers Obama for not playing a more active role in establishing a functioning, democratic government in Libya after revolutionaries toppled Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. And he insists that Obama's work to reach a nuclear accord with Iran is in vain, because the Iranians are "liars" who won't stick to whatever inspections and restrictions make up an eventual deal.

"To the Iranians: You want a piece of a nuclear power program, you can have it," Graham says as part of his standard campaign speech. "If you want a bomb, you're not going to get it. If you want a war, you're going to lose it."

After a pause, he adds, "There's no other way to talk in the Mideast."

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