Lindsey Graham — the hawkish Republican senator from South Carolina — announced that he would suspend his campaign for president in a video message released Monday morning, but pledged his commitment to continue to push his doctrine of “security through strength.”
In his announcement, he noted that the centerpiece of his campaign had been his unwavering devotion to strong military action abroad, highlighting his own military experience and expertise gleaned from some three-dozen trips to the Middle East. The next president, he said at last Tuesday’s debate, would be a wartime president.
Graham noted that when the race began, he had stood apart from many GOP candidates, insisting that ground troops in Iraq and Syria would be necessary to “secure our homeland.” In the intervening months, terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, refocussed the major debates of the Republican primary around national security. As he exited the race, Graham observed that most GOP candidates had heeded his call and now supported the notion that ground troops will be a necessary part of any successful military strategy.
Despite his forceful approach, Graham never achieved primacy in the polls, being relegated to the undercard at each Republican debate (or not being invited at all, as was the case in November). When he quit the race Monday, he was twelfth in the national polls.
Graham was one of the first GOP candidates to enter into a public feud with Donald Trump, calling him representative of “the dark side” of American politics, peddling demagoguery and lies, and calling him out for his inflammatory comments about women, immigrants, and President Obama’s birthplace. When asked in August about his poor standing behind Trump in a South Carolina poll, Graham vowed that, when his early-voting home state’s day came, he would “beat [Trump’s] brains out.”
Trump responded to Graham’s attacks by reading what he claimed was his private cell phone number at a public rally.
In another sign of how on the outs he was within his party, Graham was one of the few Republican candidates that acknowledged the urgent need to address climate change.
In October, Graham expressed his exasperation on Morning Joe that he was trailing so far behind other candidates, specifically Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who utterly lacked foreign policy and military bonafides, and put forth solutions he considered unserious and insane: “On our side, you’ve got the number-two guy trying to kill somebody at 14, and the number-one guy is high energy — and crazy as hell. How am I losing to these people?”
Shortly after the announcement, his former Republican rival Jeb Bush tweeted out a message of support, praising Graham’s “clear-eyed” vision on how to beat ISIS, and encouraging the party to heed his advice.
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) December 21, 2015
“This is a generational struggle that demands a strategy and the will to win,” Graham said Monday. “I will continue to work every day to ensure that our party and our nation takes on this fight. I’m suspending my campaign but never my commitment to achieving security through strength for the American people.”