Cruz gathers support from critics and one-time foes
By Evan Lips | March 18, 2016, 17:45 EST
The increasingly likely possibility of a Donald Trump presidential nomination is prompting longtime Republican critics of rival Ted Cruz to back the Texas Senator, as evidenced by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s recent endorsement.
Graham, himself a former candidate in the GOP race, on Thursday said the nomination of Trump, a real estate tycoon and reality television star, “would be a disaster for the party.”
“I have doubts about Mr. Trump; I don’t think he’s a Republican, I don’t think he’s a conservative; I think his campaign is built on xenophobia, race-baiting and religious bigotry,” Graham told reporters Thursday on Capitol Hill. “I think he’d be a disaster for our party and as Senator Cruz would not be my first choice, I think he is a Republican conservative who I could support.”
Graham faced a crush of media attention after CNN obtained a draft of an invitation for a Cruz fundraiser he plans to hold on Monday. After dropping out of the race in December, Graham endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush before he dropped out in February.
The senator’s endorsement provides another sign of turmoil within the GOP and just how unpredictable the party’s 2016 presidential contest has been. Graham told CNN in January that picking between Cruz and Trump “is like being shot or poisoned – what does it really matter?”
Cruz this week also drew another frequent adversary to his side: Marco Rubio. The Senator from Florida halted his campaign for the GOP nod Tuesday after Trump soundly beat him in that state’s winner-take-all primary. On Wednesday, he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper that Cruz, a fellow Cuban-American, is “the only true conservative left in this race.”
Rubio stopped short of issuing Cruz his endorsement, however.
One telling moment that occurred immediately after Rubio bowed out of the race was when one of his top campaign advisers, Avik Roy, said the Florida lawmaker’s supporters should now rally behind Cruz:
It’s time for all Rubio supporters—and all conservatives—to unite around @TedCruz.
— Avik Roy (@Avik) March 16, 2016
Roy, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute in New York and the opinion editor of Forbes, the business publication, then penned a column expanding on his statement, saying that Trump and the third remaining GOP candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are not conservatives. The former adviser to Mitt Romney and Rick Perry also pointed out that Cruz would “nominate constitutionalists to the Supreme Court” and would “push Congress to pass transformative legislation in a number of critical areas, like tax and entitlement reform.”
Thursday also saw another prominent Republican, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, switch horses and back Cruz, according to the local Post and Courier newspaper. The daughter of Indian immigrants previously supported Rubio.
On Friday, Trump chimed in on social media to remind his followers that Graham – until now – was never very supportive of Cruz while emphasizing his status as a non-politician:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2016
Friday also saw Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, move to Cruz’s side. Romney, who earlier this month publicly denounced Trump and his politics, announced via social media that he will vote for Cruz in Utah’s nominating caucus next week.
Romney wrote in a Facebook post that the nomination race equates to a “contest between Trumpism and Republicanism” and ripped ‘Trumpism’ for its association with “racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence.”
Romney added that while he likes Kasich and has campaigned with him, “a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.
“The only path that remains to nominate a Republican rather than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention. At this stage the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible,” Romney asserted.