Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat whose low-key style failed to gain traction in the crowded Democratic presidential race, said last night he was ending his campaign.
“I’m leaving because I have made the judgment that I cannot be elected president of the United States,” Mr. Graham said in announcing his exit from the race on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
He said he was not successful because he started his campaign too late and had trouble raising money. He said he delayed his entry to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee, recover from heart surgery and wait for the war in Iraq, which he opposed.
Mr. Graham, one of the most popular lawmakers in Florida, said he has not decided whether to seek re-election to his Senate seat, which he has held since 1987. He declined to endorse one of his former rivals and would not rule out accepting a vice presidential nomination.
“That’s not a decision for anyone other than the nominee,” he said.
During the campaign, Mr. Graham cast himself as the Democrats’ most experienced and electable candidate, but he struggled near the bottom of the 10-way race.
In seven months of fund raising, he brought in around $5 million, not enough to compete with six Democratic rivals who raised at least twice as much. Graham advisers said he was down to less than $1 million in his account — not enough to run a credible nationwide campaign.
Some of Mr. Graham’s top operatives announced they were leaving in recent days, and news articles reported that his campaign could be ending. Mr. Graham kept his final decision to end his bid to a close circle of trusted longtime advisers.
He based much of his campaign on his vote against the war in Iraq. Yet antiwar activists preferred former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s fist-pounding indignation to Mr. Graham’s composure, though his manner camouflaged the harshness of his accusations against the White House.
He said the White House had a “Nixonian stench” and a pattern of keeping information from the American people. He called President Bush’s tax cuts “immoral” and “an economic dagger pointed at the backs of all Americans.”
He went so far as to suggest impeachment.
“If the standard of impeachment that the Republicans set for Bill Clinton — a personal, consensual relationship was the basis for impeachment — would not a president who knowingly deceived the American people about something as important as whether to go to war meet the standard of impeachment?” he asked in July.
Mr. Graham took a final shot at Mr. Bush even as he ended his campaign last night.
“Our nation stays focused on the war on terror until it is won,” he said in a written statement accompanying his announcement. “We must reject distractions from that victory. The quagmire in Iraq is a distraction that the Bush administration, and the Bush administration alone, has created.”