Updated: 10:25 a.m. | South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — a hawkish Republican who dropped his own presidential bid a few weeks ago — endorsed Jeb Bush, a former rival, for president on Friday.
Speaking at a news conference in North Charleston, S.C., Graham said, "I’ve concluded without any doubt that Jeb Bush is ready on day one to be commander in chief.” Graham's endorsement came on the day after the first Republican debate of 2016, which he attended on Thursday night in his home state, and just weeks before the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. South Carolina, Graham said, will play an important role in pushing back on Donald Trump, the national front-runner.
"South Carolina is going to reset this race. On Feb. 20, we're going to give Jeb Bush the momentum he needs."
Graham criticized Trump over his support for a policy to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country and lauded Bush for pushing back on the proposal during Thursday night's presidential debate.
"Jeb has proven to me he will stand up to people who are running against him," he said.
A source close to Graham said Friday that Graham's timing was surprising, but not his decision to back the former governor of Florida, and that the endorsement "was almost purely a Graham move" rather than a coordinated event.
Bush said on such issues as national security, he has sought Graham's advice even while the two were running against each other.
"And he gave it," he said. Looking to Graham, he added, "I’m honored to be your student in many ways.”
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