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Sen. Lindsey Graham announces presidential run

By Andrew V. Pestano
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Sen. Lindsey Graham announces presidential run
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., announced he is running for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

CENTRAL, S.C., June 1 (UPI) -- South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham announced Monday he will be running for president as a Republican in 2016.

Graham, 59, made the announcement in his hometown of Central, S.C.

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"No one here, including me, expected me to say that: I'm Lindsey Graham and I'm running for president of the United States," Graham said. "I want to be president to protect our nation that we love so much, so get ready -- I'm ready."

"We will never enjoy peaceful coexistence with radical Islam," he said, adding that "security through strength" is necessary for the United States to be safe.

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Graham has served in the U.S. Senate since 2003. Before that, he served as a member of the House of Representatives for eight years.

Graham criticized the policies of former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, stating that Obama made the United States "less safe." He also said the greatest threat to the world is Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

His speech focused on national security and foreign policy, speaking of China's acquisition of territory in the South China Sea and of the conflict in Ukraine.

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"American weakness anywhere hurts us everywhere," he said.

Guest speakers at the event included Central Mayor Clyde "Mac" Martin Jr. and former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins.

Graham is known as an outspoken Republican who is not afraid of getting into disagreements with opponents, even within his own party. He believes in a strong military and is close to Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., who ran against Obama for president in 2008.

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Graham recently retired from the Air Force Reserves after 33 years of military involvement, where he was promoted to the rank of colonel.

"I'm running because I think the world is falling apart," Graham told CBS News in May. "I've been more right than wrong on foreign policy."

Graham agrees with McCain that a force of 10,000 U.S. soldiers should be sent to train and support Iraqi security forces fighting against the Islamic State.

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"We don't have enough military presence on the American side to change the tide of battle," he told CBS.

During McCain's presidential run, Graham helped his Republican counterpart and McCain will seemingly return the favor -- formally endorsing Graham in January, months before the announcement.

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"He's a dark horse -- keep an eye on him!" McCain told reporters. "In debates, he'll shred 'em. Have you see ever seen Sen. Graham in a debate, on the floor of the Senate? He will do wonderful. I don't want to raise expectations, but I'm confident."

For the Republican nomination, Graham faces a wide field of competitors.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; former HP CEO Carly Fiorina; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have announced campaigns.

For the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley are in the running.

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