In an interview with Axios' Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called President Trump an "equal opportunity abuser" and said that he's trying to help the president be successful.

The big picture: Graham and Trump have a complicated relationship. Graham openly admitting to voting for another candidate in 2016, but Graham has actively worked with the president to advance his legislative priorities, and has been one of Trump's top defenders against impeachment in the Senate.

What they're saying: Confronted about his relationship with the president, Graham said he is trying to be "reflective" about the reason Americans elected Trump.

  • "There are a lot of working class folks who felt like Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and Lindsey Graham did not give a damn about them."
  • "I mean, she was secretary of state, first lady, United States senator. She lost to Donald Trump. I lost to Donald Trump. Jeb Bush lost to Donald Trump."
  • "Maybe we should be a little bit reflective. I've chosen to be reflective. I've chosen to try to find out how to make Trump successful but not at all cost."

Graham also went back and forth on his previous remarks calling Trump a "bigot," insisting that he was speaking on Trump's campaign as a whole and not Trump individually.

  • "I've come to believe that my job is put America ahead of me. People in South Carolina like Trump. They want me to work with him. I represent them. I owe it to them to try. I owe it to him to try," Graham said.
  • "The American people said he wasn't a bigot. I don't think they woulda elected one," Graham said, adding that he doesn't personally believe Trump to be a bigot.

The bottom line: Asked if he's sincerely changed his beliefs on Trump's character, Graham said yes, stating: "I've got to know him. And I find him to be a handful... But at the end of the day, he can be very charming and be very gracious. And I'm judging him by his conduct."

Go deeper: Graham broke South Carolina's fundraising record in Q3, campaign says

Go deeper

Gulf Coast braces for Zeta after storm strengthens into hurricane

Hurricane Zeta's forecast path. Photo: National Hurricane Center

Louisiana Gov. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency Monday as Zeta strengthened into a hurricane and threatened Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as it moved towards the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The state of play: Zeta was expected to make landfall on the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula Monday night, bringing with it a "dangerous storm surge" and "heavy rainfall" as it moved into the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Service said.

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. World: Restrictions grow across Europe.
  6. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.

Supreme Court rejects request to extend Wisconsin absentee ballot deadline

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision Monday rejected an effort by Wisconsin Democrats and civil rights groups to extend the state's deadline for counting absentee ballots to six days after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.

Why it matters: All ballots must now be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in Wisconsin, a critical swing state in the presidential election.