A crestfallen Lindsey Graham told CNN on Monday that his now-suspended presidential campaign had been the highlight of his political life, but he said that it was a soul-crushing endeavor.
After announcing that he was dropping out of the presidential race, Graham sat down with CNN’s Kate Bolduan to explain why his campaign was coming to and end.
“I’ve hit a wall here,” Graham explained to Bolduan. “I just don’t see a way for me to get on the main [debate] stage in time to make a difference.”
Graham held back tears as he told a story of an Army engineer who he met with in Iraq and then was killed hours later. The South Carolina senator lamented that most of what that engineer had worked for in Iraq had been “lost.”
“It really pisses me off,” he insisted. “I regret that I haven’t been a better candidate. I regret that I never got on the big stage. I regret that, you know, that I didn’t make it to the final group.”
“But that’s just about me,” Graham added. “I have no regrets about running for president. I am so glad I did this.”
He also encouraged GOP hopeful Donald Trump to take the run for office seriously.
“This is not a game show, this is not a reality show,” Graham warned. “This is no longer about 2016, this is about who are we as a party, where do we want to go and where do we take the country.”
Reflecting on his performance in the primary debates, Graham credited his talent for witty one-liners to his upbringing at a bar owned by his family.
“If you own a bar, you’ve got to do two things: You’ve got to keep the customers coming back so you need to be funny and entertaining,” he asserted. “You want them to drink as long as they can without getting totally drunk. You’ve got to be tough enough to keep the bar from being taken over by the loudest guy in the room. And you’ve got to be entertaining enough to grow your business.”
“So, I want to dedicate this campaign to every bar owner,” Graham added. “I showed that you can grow up in the back of the liquor store and even run for president of the United States.”
“If you are well loved, you are truly rich. And we were not rich in the material ways, but I was well loved. So, I leave this race feeling like I was the richest guy who has ever been in it.”
Watch the video below from CNN, broadcast Dec. 21, 2015.