Lindsey Graham has suspended his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
“While we have run a campaign that has made a real difference, I have concluded this is not my time,” the senator from South Carolina said in a video message emailed to supporters Monday morning.
Graham struggled to gain traction throughout the race, even as his signature issue, foreign policy, took center stage in recent weeks. But in the video, Graham signaled that he will still be outspoken on national security issues during the 2016 campaign.
“I will continue to work every day to ensure our party, and our nation, takes on this fight,” Graham said. “I’m suspending my campaign, but never my commitment to achieving security through strength for the American people.”
Graham failed to qualify for the main stage in any of the five Republican presidential debates, and even missed the cut for the undercard event during the November debate in Milwaukee.
Graham is the fourth Republican to exit the race for the White House this year, joining former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Another 13 candidates are still seeking the party’s nomination.
While Graham’s home state of South Carolina is the third state to vote in the GOP nominating process, the senator focused the bulk of his efforts on the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. Graham spent 67 days campaigning there since the beginning of the year, the most of any candidate from either party, according to data compiled in National Journal's Travel Tracker.
On several occasions, Graham campaigned in New Hampshire with his good friend John McCain, whose support is now up for grabs.
“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,” said McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, in a statement. “Despite the disadvantages he faced in resources and debate opportunities, Lindsey’s message of serious statesmanship and problem-solving in public affairs, his forthright opposition to policies and attitudes that would endanger our country and reflect poorly on our party, and his genuine decency and humility won him many new admirers.”
As for Graham, he told CNN that he has “no intention of endorsing anyone right now.”
Graham faced a critical deadline in South Carolina. In order to remove his name from the state’s Feb. 20 primary ballot, he had to drop out of the race by today. Even though Graham didn’t garner much support in the polls in his home state, his departure from the race will free up some of South Carolina’s top Republican officials, operatives, and donors to side with another candidate in the important early-primary state.
Jeb Bush and John Kasich, two of Graham’s Republican opponents, were among the first to weigh in on the announcement 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,” Bush tweeted.
“Enjoyed Sen. @LindseyGrahamSC’s wit & respect his seriousness on nat’l security—experience matters. Best wishes to him,” Kasich followed up.