In December 2015, Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Graham, who had very little support as a presidential candidate, responded: “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot … He doesn’t represent my [Republican] party … I don’t think he has a clue about anything … He is empowering radical Islam … You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” He added, “I’d rather lose without Donald Trump than try to win with him.”
In May 2016 Graham tweeted, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…and we will deserve it.”
In June 2016, after Trump criticized a judge of Mexican heritage, implying he could be biased, Graham said to CNN: “I don’t think [Trump is] racist but he’s playing the race card … I think it’s very un-American … If he continues this line of attack then I think people really need to reconsider the future of the [Republican] party.” Graham told The New York Times that that incident “is probably it” for anyone looking to withdraw their support of Trump: “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary” Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president.