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Lindsey Graham announces he's running for president

Lindsey Graham became the ninth Republican to enter the 2016 presidential race Monday announcing his candidacy in Central, South Carolina, where he was born 59 years ago.

"I want to help make a great nation greater," he told an audience gathered outdoors on the streets where he grew up.

High on the reasons for his run is his concern about foreign threats, which made up well over half his speech. "The world is exploding in terror and violence," he said. "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."

Sen. Lindsey Graham on 2016: "I'm running because I think the world is falling apart"

Graham is adamant about maintaining a robust American presence abroad and says the U.S. should send about 10,000 military personnel in the country to serve as trainers and support for the Iraqi security forces to recapture territory held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

And he is also concerned about Iran, saying, "There are no moderates in Iran running their government."

The highest profile Democrat in the race came up in his announcement, as well.

"I have more experience with our national security than any candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary," he said. He added, "We will have a reset button with Russia that sticks," a dig at then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's attempt to reset relations with Russia at the beginning of the Obama administration.

Domestically, Graham promised supporters he would take action where government has failed - specifically on entitlement spending.

"Washington's failure to do the hard but right thing has put Social Security and Medicare in serious jeopardy. As my generation retires both programs are on track to go bust. We're living longer and fewer workers are supporting more retirees. That's unsustainable. Everybody knows it. Not everybody admits it," he said.

Graham was elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and served four terms before running for the Senate seat that had been occupied by Strom Thurmond in 2002. He twice won reelection, in 2008 and in 2014, both times by robust margins, although some conservatives had opposed him for his support for the Senate's bipartisan immigration overhaul.

Graham's younger sister, Darline Graham Nordone, was on hand for his announcement, but was delayed. The senator waited until she arrived, so that she could introduce him.

She gestured to the places where they grew up, pointing from the podium where she and Graham grew up "in one room," she said. "Not one bedroom, but one room," the back room behind a bar run by his parents.

The two siblings are close - Graham's parents died within fifteen months of each other while he was still a student at the University of South Carolina, leaving Darline an orphan at age 13. Although she went to live with their aunt and uncle in Seneca, South Carolina, Graham came home on his weekends during law school to see her and eventually became her legal guardian, so that she could receive the benefits he got as a member of the Air Force. Nordone talked about her older brother in this 2014 campaign ad.

Graham looked around the gathered crowd and thanked them for the support the people of Central had offered him over the years.

"Those of you who've known me a long time know I had some ups and downs as a young man. I lost my parents, and had to struggle financially and emotionally. I would not have made it through those times without you, and without the example my parents set for me," he said. There are a lot of so-called 'self-made' people in this world. I'm not one of them. My family, friends, neighbors and my faith picked me up when I was down, believed in me when I had doubts. You made me the man I am today."

And he closed by saying that he was running for president to repay those debts, "to fight as hard for you as you fought for me." It was, he said, the "only promise I can make, and it's the only pledge I will sign, the only one that matters. If you make me president, I'll fight each day harder than I fought the day before to keep this country safe, prosperous and as good as the people who made this country great."

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