Most Americans had no idea Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was running for president. When he quit the race this week, he was in 12th place out of 13 Republican candidates, with less than 1 percent of the vote in national polls.
But Graham has made a major contribution this election season. He's been the toughest truth teller in the GOP field, consistently fearless in confronting Donald Trump while other candidates cowered in a corner.
"He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot," Graham thundered on CNN. "You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell."
Graham is also a fierce critic of President Obama's Middle East policy, arguing that defeating the Islamic State will take a far greater military commitment than the president seems willing to make.
Yet the president recognizes that Graham is an honorable opponent, a man of clarity and candor who's willing to admit the unpopular consequences of his own policy -- a return of American combat troops to the region.
"To his credit," Obama told NPR, "I think Lindsey Graham is one of the few who has been at least honest about suggesting, 'Here is something I would do that the president is not doing.'"
Graham reflects two qualities we've long admired in politicians of both parties. One is the determination to favor reality over ideology. The other is to understand that compromise is an essential condition of democracy -- not an act of betrayal.
Graham represents a conservative state, and he was willing to jeopardize his own career by staying true to those precepts. When he sought his third Senate term last year, he faced six primary opponents, all attacking him from the right as a moderate heretic, but he still won easily.
"I've been accused of working with Democrats too much," he told CBS last spring. "In my view, Democrats and Republicans work together too little. And I would try to change that if I got to be president."
He'll never be president, but he's still a senator, and his legislative style represents a model for lawmakers in both parties. The best example is immigration reform.
He was a key architect of a bipartisan compromise providing a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in this country. The bill passed the Senate with 14 Republican votes before dying in the House, but it embodies Graham's approach: principle plus pragmatism.
Deporting those immigrants would be both immoral and impractical. And it would damage the GOP with Hispanic voters, who are a growing power in national politics.
"We're in a demographic death spiral as a party, and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community in my view is pass comprehensive immigration reform," he told NBC's "Meet the Press" in 2013.
Graham actually counts votes, and he wants to win elections, not just make speeches. For example, he recently told a gathering of Jewish Republicans that opposing abortion even in the case of rape would alienate moderates the party needs.
"If you are going to tell a woman who has been raped that she has to carry the child of a rapist, you're losing most of Americans," he warned. "Good luck with that."
He also believes in science, in facts, not fantasy, and he breaks with many Republicans on the issue of climate change: "Here's the problem I've got with some people in my own party. When you ask the scientists what's going on, why don't you believe them?"
Graham's most valuable contribution, however, has been his willingness to speak honestly about Trump. On one level, his animus is personal. As a professional politician, he's profoundly offended by a "complete idiot" he deems "crazy as hell" and "ill-prepared to be commander in chief."
On policy grounds, he rightly feels that Trump's approach to the Middle East is deeply dangerous to American interests, particularly his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. "If he is the voice and face of the Republican Party," Graham says, "I think our allies are shaking their heads and our enemies are licking their chops."
Lindsey Graham is leaving the presidential campaign, but not public life. And while he vows to "do everything I can to beat" Hillary Clinton, he also promises to "work with her" if she wins.
That's the sort of sanity America needs. The country will be better off next year with Graham in the Senate, no matter who's in the White House.