Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) told CNN this morning he’s quitting the White House race, a decision that comes on the deadline day for presidential candidates to withdraw their names from his home state’s primary ballot.
“I’ve hit a wall,” the senator said.
Graham on Sunday had scheduled a Monday morning call with key supporters to discuss “what comes next” for his campaign. This, coupled with the December 21 deadline, sparked widespread speculation in South Carolina GOP circles that Graham was poised to announce his exit from the race. He told participants on the call that he’d be dropping out.
According to Republicans close to his campaign, Graham and his team long ago circled this date on the calendar, knowing it might represent their last chance to cut bait (and save face) in the candidate’s backyard.
Graham, the state’s senior senator, had made it known he didn’t want to be embarrassed in South Carolina’s primary. Notably, he told reporters in Las Vegas last week that he planned to stay in the race at least through New Hampshire, but made no mention of his home state.
Graham’s exit frees many of the state’s biggest donors — who had dutifully stayed on the sidelines, uncomfortable with the idea of working against their longtime senator — to pick a side in the Feb. 20 primary.