Ted Cruz Racks Up His Non-Endorsement Endorsements
As Donald Trump continues his march toward the Republican nomination, Gov. Jeb Bush becomes the latest to hold his nose and line up behind the Texas senator.
The power brokers of the Republican Party appear to have picked their poison: Ted Cruz.
In January, short-lived GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) quipped of the choice between real estate magnate Donald Trump and the Texas senator: “Whether it’s death by being shot or poisoning, does it really matter?” But with the Republican field narrowing while front-runner Trump widens his lead, even those who have openly expressed their intense dislike of the go-it-alone Cruz are falling in line behind him.
The endorsements of these “establishment” Republican leaders aren’t exactly glowing: They frankly describe Cruz as a last resort, the only one with a shot at stopping Trump from running away with the GOP presidential nomination. After several western states went to the polls Tuesday night, Trump took winner-take-all Arizona, though Cruz garnered more than 50 percent of the vote in Utah, granting him all of that state’s delegates.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became the latest to join the ranks of reluctant endorsers on Wednesday.
“For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies,” Bush said in a statement sent out by the Cruz campaign.
Bush’s anemic endorsement came days after Graham, who campaigned hard for Bush after he dropped out of the race, gave Cruz his own lukewarm backing. Graham said he preferred Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s candidacy but didn’t see how the mild-mannered former congressman could survive the primary. Last Thursday, Graham said Cruz “would not be my first choice,” “is certainly not my preference,” and “is a reliable Republican conservative with whom I have had many differences.” On Monday, Graham attended a Cruz campaign fundraiser tied to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Graham, as other senators, has made no secret of his distaste for Cruz, who several times has used the threat of government shutdown to try to force his political agenda. Just last month, the South Carolina senator joked about Cruz’s loner status in the Senate: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” Before Graham, only Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had backed Cruz.
Cruz’s friendlessness may be changing now, but don’t expect any full-throated championing of the Texas senator’s candidacy from the Republicans with the most cache, several of whom have now gone through the demoralizing process of backing several presidential candidates as their first selection was picked off by Trump. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, spoken of as a potential vice presidential contender and one of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s highest-profile surrogates before he dropped out of the race on March 16 after losing big to Trump in his home state, expressed her support for Cruz quietly, seemingly unconvinced.
“My hope and my prayer is that Sen. Cruz can pull through this and that he can push through and really get to where he needs to go … so we’ll see what happens,” Haley told reporters in South Carolina just after Rubio dropped out, adding that she didn’t plan to make a formal announcement.
“I don’t know that I need to formally endorse,” she said. “If anybody asks me, that’s what I want to see happen.”
As Graham put it on Cruz emerging as the establishment alternative to Trump: “This an odd moment, I’ll be first to say.”
Photo credit: WIN McNAMEE