Dec 21, 2015 11:02 PM
NH1 Political Director - NH1.com
CONCORD – Lindsey Graham ended his White House bid on Monday, but the Republican senator from South Carolina was dropping hints more than a week ago, when he sat down for an interview with NH1 News.
“Today I’m suspending my campaign for president,” Graham said in a video he emailed to supporters.
Ten days ago, in a one-on-one interview at the NH1 News media center, Graham was honest about his extremely long shot prospects for the GOP nomination, saying “I gotta get my numbers up,” adding that “if I don’t start moving it’s going to be harder to stay in this race.”
Asked if would remain in the race through the February 9 primary, Graham told NH1 News “that's my goal,” before adding “but I gotta show some movement.”
Graham spent most of his time on the campaign trail in the first-in-the-nation primary state, running the New Hampshire way, with lots of emphasis on retail stops and town halls. But with little name recognition and little money, Graham wasn’t able to rise above one percent in Granite State polls (except for one survey over the summer when he reached two percent).
It was the same story for Graham in the national polls. And that meant Graham never made it to the prime time stage at any of the five Republican presidential primary debates.
“I've never been on the big stage. I think using national polling criteria to eliminate people from the debate hurt me early on. I could always be a better candidate. I'm not just blaming everybody else. I'm sure there's things I could do better. But we've got a process that rewards a Trump, a celebrity figure, someone who's run before, and it really undercuts the New Hampshire process,” Graham said in his recent NH1 News interview.
“I think what's hurt me as much as anything else has not being on the main stage and being able to talk to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and others about how I would be a better commander in chief,” he added.
Regardless, Graham returned to the Granite State on Friday and Saturday, to campaign once again with his good friend Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a two-time New Hampshire primary winner.
Saturday, speaking with NH1 News weekend anchor Chantel McCabe, McCain said of his friend “well, he’s not doing great,” before adding “I won’t give up on him.”
And Graham sounded like a candidate ready to call off his White House bid, telling McCabe that Granite State voters “welcomed me and I’ll never forget this no matter what happens in my campaign, it’s been one of the highlights of my life.”
Graham made national security and battling terrorists the centerpiece of his campaign. In his video on Monday Graham took some credit for the increased emphasis on the issue, saying “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. 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."
While that may be partially true, the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last month and this month’s mass shootings in San Bernardino, California are also responsible for making national security the top issue in the race for the White House.
Graham’s hope was to do well in New Hampshire, allowing him to return to his home state of South Carolina (which follows the Granite State in the primary and caucus calendar) with some momentum.
“It’s always been about New Hampshire. If I don’t do well here I’ll reevaluate and help somebody else. It’s not just about staying in until the South Carolina primary,” Graham told NH1 News on Dec. 11
But in the end, it did come down to South Carolina.
While he was in the double digits in the polls in his home state this summer, Graham was down to just one or two percent in the latest surveys. His withdrawal came on the very last day that Graham could remove his name from the Palmetto State primary ballot, allowing him to avoid a very likely embarrassing finish in his home state.
Graham became the fourth Republican presidential candidate to drop out, following former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Thirteen major GOP candidates remain in the hunt for the nomination.
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