Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE (R-S.C.) blames the GOP’s two-tiered debate system for hurting his presidential candidacy.

Graham, who on Monday dropped out of the GOP race for the White House, called the system “strange” and said Republicans should “never do this again.”


“You just can’t punch through when you’ve got a two-tiered system,” added Graham, who never made the main stage of a GOP debate, where he might have been able to trade barbs with front-runner Donald Trump.

“I just don’t see a way for me to get on the main stage in time to make a difference,” Graham told CNN.

“We’re going to have to start consolidating as Republicans.”

Republicans have allowed about 10 candidates to appear on the main debate stage for each of their five contests, which has relegated lower-polling candidates such as Graham to an earlier debate.

Graham told CNN the rules hurt his campaign, noting that it's difficult for candidates that have never run before or come from political royalty to reach the main stage. 

“I can't tell you how frustrating it has been to spend all this time and effort preparing myself to be commander in chief and be put at the kiddie table,” he said. 

Graham's campaign devoted almost its entire focus to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which he argues has been mishandled by President Obama.

While he's had disagreements with some candidates on his hawkish foreign policy, Graham praised several rivals on Monday, but he stopped short of offering an immediate endorsement. 

He noted that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) “are very much in sync where I'm at” on foreign policy, and then also noted favorably the views of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

Graham said he would support Trump if the businessman wins the GOP nomination, saying he’d give “my two-cents worth about a plan I think can keep the country safe.”

The senator has repeatedly bashed Trump's foreign policy stances and offered a warning to the real estate magnate turned politician. 

“You need to start thinking about policies that actually work,” he said, possibly referring to his ban on Muslim immigration that Graham criticized during last week's GOP debate. 

“You may wind up being the nominee of the party. The Republican Party's future may be in your hands, but the future of the country will be in your hands if you are president of the United States. This is not a game show, this is not a reality show.” 

Graham also offered to help Democrat Hillary Clinton if she is elected, though he said he hoped she would not win.

“Hillary, if you get to be president, I'll help you where I can,” he said. “I hope you are not, but if you are, I will be there to help you win a war we can't afford to lose.”