Sen. Lindsey Graham suspended his longshot presidential bid on Monday, and while he never gained much traction in the polls, his series of one-liners, particularl during the undercard GOP debates, differentiated the South Carolina lawmaker from his Republican rivals.
Graham’s campaign didn’t exactly get off to an auspicious start. He was one of many candidates to get caught up int the Donald Trump tidal wave this past summer. Trump revealed at a campaign rally in July that he had Graham’s personal phone number and shared it on live television. Graham destroyed his phone in a viral video, but he still struggled to make his hawkish message heard.
In the first debate, Graham couldn’t shake off some of his U.S. Senate chamber rust.
“When I was 21 my mom died, when I was 22 my dad died. We owned a liquor store, a restaurant, and a bar and we lived in the back. Every penny we got from Social Security because my sister was a minor we needed. Today I’m 60, I’m not married, I don’t have any kids,” Graham said at one point, in what has been described as the “saddest” and “most surreal” answer of the Aug. 6 undercard debate.
Watch Graham Announce He's Suspending 2016 CampaignDec. 21, 201501:53
It was in his second undercard debate that Graham started to win praise from pundits for looser, more assured performances. “That’s the first thing I’m going to do as president: We’re going to drink more,” he said during that debate, which was just one of many memorable non-sequiturs from the South Carolina senator.
In that debate and the following three, as well as numerous cable news appearances, Graham was unleashed and unforgettable:
On his Southern accent: “We’re not going to deport 11 million people here illegally, but we’ll start with felons, and off they go. And, as to the rest, you can stay, but you got to learn our language. I don’t speak it very well, well, look how far I’ve come?”
On why immigration reform is good for growth of U.S. workforce “(Former South Carolina Sen.) Strom Thurmond had four kids after he was 67, if you’re not willing to do that, we’ve got to come up with a new legal immigration system.”
On Donald Trump: “What I heard last night, it’s the Cartoon Network: ‘Ooh, I’m big, I’m strong! I’m gonna hit ’em in the head!’ That’s not foreign policy, that’s a cartoon character.”
On Hillary Clinton: “I don’t say things bad about her all the time, just when she deserves it.”
On ISIS: “They’re ready to die. Bring on the virgins.”
On his study habits at the University of South Carolina law school: “I wasn’t the best law student. By the end of this debate, it would be the most time I’ve ever spent in any library.”
On Vladimir Putin: “I’m not afraid of a guy running around on a horse without a shirt.”
On sequestration: “Sequestration is Latin for ‘doing really dumb things.’”
On climate change: “I’m not a scientist, and I’ve got the grades to prove it.”
On Bernie Sanders: “Bernie Sanders went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon and he never came back.”
On Sen. Ted Cruz: ”His favorite movie is apparently ‘Princess Bride.’ Ted, getting in bed with Iran and Russia to save Assad is inconceivable … Princess Buttercup would not like this.”
On Trump’s ISIS strategy: “ISIL would be dancing in the streets, they just don’t believe in dancing.”
On Bush 43: “I’m tired of beating on Bush. I miss George W. Bush! I wish he were president right now!”
On his competition: “On our side, you’ve got the No. 2 guy [saying he] tried to kill someone at 14 and the No. 1 is high energy and crazy as hell. How am I losing to these people?”