Sen. Lindsey Graham, arguably the funniest man in the Senate and the GOP presidential field, recognized reality, namely that “We’ve come to a point now where I just don’t see how we grow the campaign without getting on the main stage.” A number of things may follow from his exit from the presidential campaign:
1. The other “kiddie table” debate participants should exit as well. They have had plenty of time to make their cases, but have failed to do so. Their departures would help the electorate focus on the serious choice before them.
2. If they do not exit, there should nevertheless be no second-tier debates. Without Graham, these debates will be utterly unwatchable. At any rate, there is nothing to be gained from giving noncompetitive candidates free air time.
Lindsey Graham’s two fatal flaws
3. Graham says he has “no intention of endorsing anyone now.” Nevertheless, he and others who drop out should maintain their criticism of Donald Trump, warning the party of his toxicity and mocking (appropriately) his ignorance.
4. Graham donors looking for a new candidate should look for another strong-on-defense candidate. The obvious contenders are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.
5. This also frees up Graham supporters such as Sen. John McCain to back someone else. A substantial contingent of hawkish Senate Republicans could play a critical role if they get behind a single candidate.
SC Republican Lindsey Graham drops out of presidential race
6. In the Senate, Graham can play a critical role in focusing on issues including defense spending, the National Security Agency and other issues that will require presidential candidates to define their views.
7. If a GOP president is elected, Graham would be a valuable cabinet member, most especially as defense secretary. As a long-time active-duty and reserve member of the Air Force and a key participant in most every major foreign policy decision in the past decade or so, he’d be a strong pick. (Right-wingers who have never liked Graham would be delighted, I imagine, for him to leave the Senate.)
8. With fellow South Carolinian Graham out of the race, this also frees up SC Gov. Nikki Haley to formally endorse or more subtly share her state political operation with one candidate. As a governor, she is most likely to favor either Bush or Christie.
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9. Graham will continue to act as a strong voice of opposition to the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy. Be it on debacles such as the Iran deal or the growing chaos in Afghanistan, he can highlight the disastrous consequences of a policy that amounts to retrenchment and appeasement.
10. He can remain a voice of sanity on immigration and on the GOP’s ability to survive and grow in an electorate that bears little resemblance to the country that deep-red-state Republicans and talk-radio barkers imagine it to be.
Ms. Rubin offers reported opinion from a conservative perspective; follow her on Twitter @JRubinBlogger.