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Lindsey Graham on 2016 plans: ‘Get ready’

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Columbia, South Carolina CNN —  

A small group of 2016 presidential contenders took turns Friday making their pitch to a large gathering of South Carolina’s Republican activists, keenly aware of the state’s first-in-the-South primary status.

While Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum competed for the audience’s love, it was South Carolina’s own senator, Lindsey Graham, who easily carried the night at the state GOP’s annual Silver Elephant Dinner in Columbia, dropping serious hints about his own potential White House bid and entertaining the crowd with his witty string of one-liners.

“It’s good to be home with people who talk like I do,” the senator said. “The next President of the United States should have an accent. That’s the only thing I’m going to say about that.”

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Graham, who was first elected to the Senate in 2002 after representing the state in the House for seven years, went through rounds of thanks to the state’s elected officials and widely-known public figures before offering praise of the three presidential hopefuls who preceded him.

He described Cruz as “very funny” and “energetic,” while Perry, he said, was a “job-creating juggernaut” in Texas. As for Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, there’s “no stronger voice for the unborn,” Graham said.