NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — As they battled on the presidential campaign trail, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would call Sen. Lindsey Graham to talk about ideas on national security, an expertise of the South Carolina Republican.
After Graham dropped out of the race on Dec. 21, their chats continued. Meanwhile, most of Graham's South Carolina backers endorsed Bush, the son and brother of two presidents, having worked on George H.W. Bush's and George W. Bush's successful Palmetto State presidential primary wins.
Graham, as expected, endorsed Jeb Bush on Friday.
Based on his military experience and knowledge of national security, the top concern of GOP voters, Graham concluded, "I have earned the right to be listened to."
Graham said he picked Bush because he is the steady candidate who, in the senator's opinion, can best aid the country, divided during the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama and seeking better solutions to defeat radical Islamic terrorists.
"He didn't talk the most last night, but he made the most sense," Graham said of Bush's performance in GOP presidential debate Thursday in North Charleston.
Graham has said he would not endorse the top two GOP national front-runners, Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He thinks their harsh, uncompromising views divide the party, driving away potential supporters.
"Everything we learned for the 2012 election, he has ignored," Graham said last week of Trump.
Bush echoed Graham's sentiment about Trump during the debate, saying the billionaire's proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the country undermines U.S. foreign policy.
Bush said having the race's top national security expert on his side should help win over voters. Bush needs a big push as voters start to cast ballots next month.
"His endorsement of my candidacy is a huge validator of what kind of president I would be," Bush said.