In possibly the least surprising development of the 2016 presidential race, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who dropped out of the race on Monday, never managed to gain traction. He was running on the most unpopular platform imaginable: more war, less Social Security. His zeal for bipartisanship, support for climate-change legislation, and unwavering advocacy for immigration reform all put him profoundly out of step with his party's base. His knack for a quip, and for bucking GOP orthodoxy, enlivened the undercard debates and delighted the media, but actual Republican primary voters gave him the cold shoulder. In most polls, he struggled to reach 1 percent.
So what was it for? Many observers originally speculated that Graham was running a favorite-son campaign aimed at preventing a hard-line conservative from winning the important, third-on-the-calendar primary in his home state of South Carolina. (This would presumably make it easier for an establishment Republican to get through the primaries.) But while Graham beat back the hard right and won 56 percent of the vote in his Senate primary last year, polls showed South Carolina Republicans far less enthusiastic about his presidential prospects. Monday is the deadline for candidates to drop out and have their names taken off the South Carolina primary ballot, so by getting out now, Graham avoids a potential humiliation.