CHARLESTON, S.C., March 17, 2016 — South Carolina Sen/ Lindsey Graham has announced that he is endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz for president. He called Cruz the best alternative to Donald Trump.
Graham is the second senator to publicly support Cruz, and this is a significant development. Graham, a relative centrist, until recently openly detested his colleague from Texas. But in recent weeks he has suggested that Cruz stands the best chance of beating Donald Trump.
During a press dinner, Graham joked about Cruz’s lack of popularity with his Senate colleagues. “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” He said of the choice between Cruz and Trump, “It’s like being shot or poisoned. What does it really matter?”
Graham will headline a Cruz fundraiser on Monday, the same day Cruz will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. During an appearance on CNN, Graham told Dana Bash that Cruz is not his preference, but he’s the best alternative to Trump.
Graham previously ran for the nomination himself. His presidential bid struggled from the start and never gained traction. He consistently polled in the low single digits and ended his run in December before the first nominating contest He endorsed Jeb Bush, who in turn dropped out the night of the primary in Graham’s home state of South Carolina, which was won by Trump. Graham would support a John Kasich presidential campaign, but does not see how Kasich can reach the total delegates needed.
The Trump revolution has historical precedent, Graham says. His endorsement gave voice to the Republican establishment’s desperate struggle to stop Trump from becoming the nominee, even if it means embracing Cruz, a strident conservative disliked by the Washington establishment.
“I think Mr. Trump is not a Republican. I don’t think he’s conservative. I think his campaign is built on xenophobia, race baiting, and he would be a disaster for our party,” Graham said. “Sen. Cruz would not be my first choice, [but] I think he is a reliable conservative that I can support.”