Lindsey Graham Jumps Into 2016 Presidential Race: ‘Ready to Be Commander-in-Chief on Day One’

"I want to be president to defeat the enemies trying to kill us."

ByABC News
June 1, 2015, 10:47 AM

— -- South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is “ready to be commander-in-chief on day one,” the Republican said, announcing his presidential bid from his hometown today.

"I’m pretty sure no one here, including me, ever expected to hear me say, 'I’m Lindsey Graham, and I’m running for president of the United States,'" he told a cheering crowd in Central, South Carolina.

"I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary," he said. "I know the players, I know our friends and I know our enemies alike -- but most importantly, ladies and gentlemen, they know me."

Graham, a retired Air Force colonel, enters the race just as a fierce battle over national security rages in the Senate.

The South Carolina senator – a noted defense hawk – stands in sharp contrast to fellow 2016 hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, who spent Sunday night railing against the anti-terror PATRIOT act and just last month declared that GOP hawks have contributed to the rise of ISIS.

"The Obama Administration, and some of my colleagues in Congress, have substituted wishful thinking for sound national security strategy," Graham, 59, said today. “I want to be president to defeat the enemies trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them."

“Simply put, radical Islam is running wild," he said. "They are large, they are rich, they're entrenched. As president I will make them small, poor and on the run.”

Graham joins an already-crowded Republican field, with more candidates expected to declare later this month. One of his strongest allies is likely to be the GOP’s 2008 nominee, Sen. John McCain, who once jokingly called Graham his “illegitimate son.”

If elected, Graham would be the third unmarried president to take office in U.S. history.