Lindsey Graham on the Republican Party after Trump: 'We either get smarter or die'

Lindsey Graham And Mitt Romney Give Up Trying To Stop Trump

Sen. Lindsey Graham characterized the crisis facing the Republican Party in grim terms Friday, saying the party needs to adapt or die after the 2016 presidential election.

The South Carolina senator called the matchup between Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, and Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, a "race to the bottom."

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During a talk at The Common Good Forum in New York on Friday, Foreign Affairs managing editor Jonathan Tepperman asked Graham what would happen to the Republican Party after the election.

Graham responded, "We either get smarter or die."

"If we win, it will be because we suck more than the other side," Graham continued. "This is a race to the bottom, and I think we have a slightly faster car."

Graham, a vehement critic of Trump, was a 2016 presidential candidate himself before hedropped out in December. He failed to gain traction in polls throughout his campaign.

As he did on the campaign trail, Graham spoke Friday of the need for a more inclusive Republican Party.

"The bottom line is, if in 2017 we've lost the White House because we're losing more ground with Hispanics, we're losing ground with young women, if we don't adjust, we're dead," Graham said.

See Graham through the years:

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Lindsey Graham on the Republican Party after Trump: 'We either get smarter or die'
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Riga, Latvia, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a press conference about his resistance to the so-called "Skinny Repeal" of the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
UNITED STATES - MARCH 21: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questions Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch on the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Hart Building, March 21, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (R) introduces Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush (L) at a town hall meeting with employees at FN America gun manufacturers in Columbia, South Carolina February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 07: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) departs a military briefing for U.S. senators on the recent U.S. attack in Syria April 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory strike yesterday in response to the use of chemical weapons by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) depart after the failure of the "skinny repeal" health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) rides on the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Senator John McCain (L) listens as Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Riga, Latvia December 28, 2016. Picture taken December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), left, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), right, meet with Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington March 21, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during the 2015 Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum March 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. Prospective 2016 presidential candidates from both political parties participated in the presidential forum during the conference which hosted by the International Association of Fire Fighters. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (L) meets with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26: U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L), who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) head for the Senate Floor for a vote at the U.S. Capitol July 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. GOP efforts to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, were dealt setbacks when a mix of conservative and moderate Republican senators joined Democrats to oppose procedural measures on the bill. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 20: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., hold a news conference to discuss the bipartisan 'The Dream Act of 2017' in the Capitol on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 08: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L) shakes hands with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (R) at the conclusion of a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing about Russian intereference in the 2016 election in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. Before being fired by U.S. President Donald Trump, Yates had warned the White House about contacts between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russia that might make him vulnerable to blackmail. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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And Graham seems to think there's an opening for a revamped party.

"The good news is people are not sold on the Democratic Party," Graham said. "They're looking for alternatives and I don't think we're providing a good one yet."

Graham urged Republicans to consider immigration reform and called House Speaker Paul Ryan "the future of the party."

"He's a party leader," Graham said. "I'm just a voice in the Republican Party."

Trump has a different view of the future of the party.

He told Bloomberg in an interview published this week that he thinks we'll see a "different party" in five or 10 years.

"You're going to have a worker's party," he said. "A party of people that haven't had a real wage increase in 18 years. What I want to do, I think cutting Social Security is a big mistake for the Republican Party. And I know it's a big part of the budget. Cutting it the wrong way is a big mistake, and even cutting it" at all.

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