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South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
“Today, I’m suspending my campaign for president,” Graham said in a short video posted to YouTube. “I want to thank everyone who has taken this journey with me. You have honored me with your support. I believe we have run a campaign you can be proud of. We put forth bold and practical solutions to real problems.”
“Four months ago at the very first debate, I said that any candidate who did not understand that we need more troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIL was not ready to be Commander in Chief,” Graham continued. “At the time, no one stepped forward to join me. Today, most of my fellow candidates have come to recognize this is what’s needed to secure our homeland.”
He added: “While we have run a campaign that has made a real difference, I have concluded this is not my time.”
Graham told CNN although he is dropping his GOP bid, “I’m not going to suspend my desire to help the country. I’ll probably go back to Iraq and Afghanistan and get another update.”
During his campaign, Graham had been largely critical of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” Graham said on CNN following Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United State. “You know you how you make America great again? You tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”
But the 60-year-old three-term senator never gained traction in national polls and was relegated to the so-called undercard during most of the GOP debates — even failing to qualify for one: the Fox Business debate in November.
In national surveys conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, Graham never received more than 1 percent support from likely Republican voters. And according to a recent CBS News/YouGov South Carolina poll, he registered just 1 percent support among GOP voters in his home state.
Monday, coincidentally, was the deadline to get on the South Carolina primary ballot.
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas on Dec. 15. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
“We’ve come to a point now where I just don’t see how we grow the campaign without getting on the main stage,” Graham said during a conference call with supporters. “One of the biggest problems we’ve had was to get our voice on equal footing with others. This second-tier debate process has been difficult for us. I think we’ve done well in the debates, it’s just hard to break through because the buzz doesn’t last very long.”
A few of Graham’s fellow GOP candidates reacted to his departure on Twitter.
Nobody is more clear-eyed about ISIS than my friend @GrahamBlog. As he leaves the race I hope our party & country listen to his counsel
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush)
Enjoyed Sen. @LindseyGrahamSC’s wit & respect his seriousness on nat’l security—experience matters. Best wishes to him. -John
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich)
Thank you to my friend @GrahamBlog for adding his strong national security voice to this race. It was much needed during this time of crisis
— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum)
.@LindseyGrahamSC is a great American and a good friend. I’ve always admired him and wish him the best.
— Chris Christie (@ChrisChristie) December 21, 2015
And Arizona Sen. John McCain, Graham’s best friend in the U.S. Senate, tweeted that the GOP lost its “most qualified, thoughtful [and] honest presidential candidate.”
It was a privilege to support my dear friend @LindseyGrahamSC - thank you for all you have done for the country you love & serve so well!
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain)
In his exit interview with CNN, Graham offered a prediction.
“Here’s what I predict,” he said. “I think the nominee of our party is going to adopt my plan when it comes time to articulate how to destroy ISIL. We’ve fallen short here, but the fight continues. To those who are doing the fighting, I want to be your voice. To those in the Republican Party who want to win, check my plan out. Hillary, if you get to be president, I’ll help you where I can. I hope you’re not. But if you are, I’ll be there to help you win a war we can’t afford to lose.”