South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that he “cannot in good conscience” support his party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, and won’t be voting for him in November.
“I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief,” he said in a statement.
“It’s hard to believe that in a nation of more than 300 million Americans, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be our choices for president,” he said.
Trump became the de facto Republican nominee after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out of the race earlier this week following his landslide victory in Indiana’s primary.
“I would have supported all 16 except for the Donald,” Graham said in an interview with CNN on Friday, speaking from Clemson, South Carolina. He pointed out that he had even supported Cruz despite their “monumental differences.” He also announced he would not be attending the Republican national convention in Cleveland this summer.
“Good luck to Paul Ryan trying to find a conservative agenda with this guy,” he said. “A lot of my colleagues will vote for him enthusiastically, some will hold their nose. I just can’t go there with Donald.”
Graham’s declaration on Friday does not come as a surprise. He has been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics from the very start, often saying that he is “literally running out of adjectives” for the brash businessman. Last year he described Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.” Trump hit back as well, in one memorable episode last summer giving out the senator’s cellphone number in retaliation for calling him “the world’s biggest jackass.”
In his statement Friday, Graham made it clear he would also not support Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who he said “represents a third term of Barack Obama.”
Good luck to Paul Ryan trying to find a conservative agenda with this guy.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
That doesn’t mean he’s not voting at all, he told CNN.
“Oh, I’m definitely voting, I’m all in for Tim Scott,” he said about his state’s junior senator, who is up for re-election next fall. He said he’d support the races of other Republicans who wanted his help, in his home state of South Carolina and across the country, except for the presidential nominee.
“I may just pass, I may write somebody in, I don’t know, but I’m going to be enthusiastically behind the South Carolina Republican team,” he said.
Graham endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush after ending his own presidential bid in December.
In his usual style, Trump quickly released a statement in response to Graham’s comments Friday and ridiculed his failed presidential campaign.
“If I got beaten as badly as I beat him, and all the other candidates he endorsed, I would not be able to give my support either,” he said. “Every time I see Lindsey Graham spew hate during interviews I ask why the media never questions how I singlehandedly destroyed his hapless run for president.”
Trump pointed out that he had won the primary in Graham’s home state and called him an “an embarrassment for the great people of South Carolina.”
Graham’s comments show the widening schism dividing a Republican Party unsure of what to do with its eccentric nominee. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that he was “just not ready” to support Trump. Other prominent figures, like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Vice President Dick Cheney, have called on the party to unify behind him to defeat Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.
“To Donald Trump, congratulations. You did a hell of a thing; you beat me and everybody else,” Graham said on CNN. “I just really believe that the Republican Party has been conned here.”