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'
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)
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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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