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Sen. Lindsey Graham Is Out of the 2016 GOP Presidential Race

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the most vocal Republican critic of Donald Trump, suspends his campaign for the presidency.

GettyImages-497017030
GettyImages-497017030

And now there are 12.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a long-shot candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, announced Monday that he is abandoning his campaign for the Oval Office.

Graham, who has served three terms in the Senate representing South Carolina, never polled above 1 percent, freeing him up to stake out hawkish positions on the Islamic State that go well beyond his party’s fragile consensus against sending in large numbers of American ground troops -- and, more notably, to be one of the only candidates willing to publicly call out front-runner Donald Trump for his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-women comments.

And now there are 12.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a long-shot candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, announced Monday that he is abandoning his campaign for the Oval Office.

Graham, who has served three terms in the Senate representing South Carolina, never polled above 1 percent, freeing him up to stake out hawkish positions on the Islamic State that go well beyond his party’s fragile consensus against sending in large numbers of American ground troops — and, more notably, to be one of the only candidates willing to publicly call out front-runner Donald Trump for his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-women comments.

Graham’s most forceful rebuke of the GOP front-runner came in last week’s undercard Republican presidential debate, when he lashed out at Trump for his calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States as well as the potential closure of some mosques.

“Donald Trump has done the one single thing you cannot do — declare war on Islam itself,” Graham said. “To all of our Muslim friends throughout the world, like the king of Jordan and the president of Egypt, I am sorry. He does not represent us.”

Trump, for his part, routinely mocked Graham for his abysmal poll numbers and once gave out the senator’s cellphone number at a public rally. Graham, known in the Senate for his acerbic wit, responded with a video showing him destroying his mobile in a number of different ways, including putting it in a blender and smashing it with a golf club.

More substantively, Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, believes that the United States should send troops to Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State. He cited this position in announcing suspension of his campaign.

“Four months ago, at the very first debate, I said that any candidate who did not understand that we need more American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIL was not ready to be commander in chief,” Graham said in a video announcing he was standing aside, while using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State. “At that time, no one stepped forward to join me. Today, most of my fellow candidates have come to recognize this is what’s needed to secure our homeland.”

Graham’s departure could trigger a winnowing of the Republican field, with other long shots like former New York Gov. George Pataki — and potentially former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — abandoning their long-shot bids as well.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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