Another pointless presidential campaign comes to a merciful end:
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is suspending his presidential run, he told supporters on a conference call Monday.
A Graham campaign never made any sense, but then he never thought he could win. His bid was always intended to be a single-issue candidacy to make sure that terrible hard-line foreign policy ideas were represented in the race. Instead of being a useful foil for Rand Paul or a spoiler in South Carolina, Graham’s presence in the race was redundant. He never had enough support in the polls to get on the main stage. Since most of the other candidates shared and still share Graham’s views, there wasn’t really a role for him in the contest except to provide a few laugh lines in the early debates that no one cared about. The only effect that his presence in the race had on South Carolina was to freeze party elites and donors in the state. That has so prevented them from throwing their support behind any of the “establishment” candidates before now. Graham’s exit allows them to pick sides. The candidates most likely to benefit most from that would seem to be Bush and Rubio, but it is questionable how much that will boost them.
McCain was Graham’s main and practically his only supporter, and he could now choose to endorse one of the other candidates, but I can’t think of anyone except Bush that would want his endorsement. Most conservatives didn’t like and don’t trust McCain, many think nominating him in 2008 was a mistake, and so his endorsement is likely to be more of a burden than a help to the extent that anyone pays attention to it at all. If he did endorse Rubio, that would compound Rubio’s existing problems on immigration. It’s also possible that McCain might refuse to back Rubio because of the latter’s abandonment of the Gang of Eight bill. Regardless, the effect of Graham’s departure of the race will be very small. It doesn’t do much to fix the “establishment” candidates’ larger problem, which is that there are still too many of them chasing after too few voters to win anywhere.