"I am suspending my campaign, but never my commitment to achieving security through strength for the American people," Graham said in a video statement.
 
The 60-year-old senator from South Carolina never gained traction with his improbable campaign, often polling at just one percent nationally.

In a race crowded at one point with 17 candidates, Graham was swamped by political outsiders including Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and to a degree his fellow Senator Ted Cruz.

In the first in a series of Republican primary debates, he stated that any candidate who did not understand that the United States needed more troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria to defeat the Islamic State group was not ready to be commander in chief.

Graham often touted his experience in the Middle East, he says he has made 36 trips to the region and said the next US president must have a deft understanding of the conflicts there.

He has expressed particular bitterness towards Trump, describing him as a xenophobic bigot for his comments about Muslims and at one point this month saying American voters should tell the bombastic billionaire to 'go to hell'.

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