WASHINGTON - Bob Graham, a political veteran whose low-key style failed to gain traction in the crowded Democratic presidential race, said Monday night he was ending his campaign.
"I'm leaving because I have made the judgment that I can not be elected president of the United States," 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.
Graham, one of the most popular lawmakers in his home state of Florida, said he has not decided whether he would run for re-election to his Senate seat, which he has held since 1987.
During the campaign, Graham cast himself as the Democrats' most experienced and electable presidential candidate, but he struggled near the bottom of the 10-way nomination 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's advisers said he was down to less than $1 million in his account — not enough to run a credible nationwide campaign.
Some of Graham's top presidential operatives announced they were leaving in recent days, and news articles reported that his campaign may be ending. Graham kept his final decision to end his bid to a close circle of longtime trusted advisers who supported him during his time in the Senate.
He didn't tell his top campaign staffers, and they were left to speculate about the future of their jobs until the announcement on CNN.
Graham had considered running a shoestring campaign focused in just a few states with a small staff. He sounded like he was committed to stay in the race as late as Saturday, when he told a meeting of the Democratic National Committee (news - web sites): "I will win the presidency by leading America with honor out of the quagmire of Iraq (news - web sites)."
Graham based much of his campaign on his vote against the military conflict in Iraq. Yet anti-war activists preferred Howard Dean (news - web sites)'s fist-pounding indignation to Graham's calm, measured arguments against President Bush (news - web sites)'s foreign policy.
Graham's composed manner camouflaged his harsh accusations against the White House. He accused Bush of endangering Americans by abandoning the fight against terror to wage war in Iraq, a country that he said did not pose an immediate threat to the United States.
This is really surprising for me. I guess I wasn't paying close enough attention to his campaign to see that he wasn't doing so well. As far as I knew he was well liked as a candidate. Your thoughts?