In life, presidents embraced Billy Graham. In death, he has same pull for politicians.

In life, presidents embraced Billy Graham. In death, he has same pull for politicians.
1996: Graham talks with President Clinton. (Observer file photo)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Tim Funk/The Charlotte Observer) - During Billy Graham's long life, U.S. presidents publicly embraced him, seeking his spiritual and political advice and hoping his popularity would rub off on them.

And in death this week, Graham still had that pull for not only presidents but for politicians of both parties.

President Donald Trump was in the front row at Graham's funeral Friday. So was Vice President Mike Pence, who has his eye on a run for the White House later or sooner. Both men look to the evangelical Christian community, for whom the Graham family is still like royalty, as the most loyal pillar in their political base.

Earlier in the week, former presidents George W. Bush, a Republican, and Bill Clinton, a Democrat, also came to Charlotte to pay their last respects to Graham during visits that were widely covered in the media.

As his father aged and faded from the scene in recent years, son Franklin has formed his own political alliances, almost all of them conservative and Republican.

The younger Graham is an enthusiastic supporter of Trump and Pence – he lauds them often in his daily Facebook posts.

And while N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, was given a front row seat at Friday's funeral, many of the other invitees were prominent Republican politicians.

Some of these GOP guests have run for national office and may again, including Ben Carson, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani.

The Grahams also invited both leading Republicans in the 2018 battle for North Carolina's 9th congressional seat: U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who worked for Campus Crusade for Christ right out of college, and his challenger, the Rev. Mark Harris, former pastor of Charlotte's First Baptist Church.