Sen. Lindsey Graham suspended his long shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination Monday, saying, “I believe we’ve run a campaign you can be proud of.”
Graham, R-S.C., announced his decision in a conference call with supporters. He followed up the announcement with a video posted on his campaign website.
“I’m suspending my campaign, but never my commitment to achieving security through strength for the American people,” Graham says in the video.
He entered the race hoping that his conservative national security credentials would appeal to voters, especially in his home state, which holds the nation’s first Southern presidential primary.
In addition, he pushed for entitlement revisions to reduce spending and the nation’s debt and his support for an immigration overhaul.
He also repeated his call for the U.S. to put more troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria and said he believed his presence in the race elevated the conversation about national security.
But Graham’s campaign failed to gain traction, even as terrorism became a growing concern among voters in the wake of the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris.
Graham was routinely relegated to the undercard GOP presidential debates – the early sessions before the prime-time debates – because his polling numbers weren’t strong enough for him to qualify for the main event. Still, Graham made his presence felt in the undercard events through his quips and self-depreciating humor.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Graham’s fellow military hawk and good friend in the Senate, said in a statement Monday that “As sorry as I am to see Lindsey’s candidacy end, I understand his reasons, and I’m as proud of him as I’ve ever been for his exemplary service to our party and our country.”
“With Senator Lindsey Graham’s announcement, Republicans lost our most qualified, thoughtful, fearless and honest presidential candidate, not to mention the candidate with the best (and it seemed sometimes the only) sense of humor,” McCain added.
The Democratic National Committee used Graham’s exit to blast the Republican Party on immigration and take a shot at Donald Trump, the GOP presidential front-runner.
“The one presidential candidate who has consistently favored comprehensive immigration reform just dropped out of the race after attracting virtually no support,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Eric Walker said in a statement. “At the same time, the party’s front-runner has consistently demonized immigrant communities. . . . Good job, good effort, GOP.”