Former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham put his support Thursday behind Sen. Ted Cruz, saying the Senate colleague wasn’t his preferred candidate for the GOP nomination but was better than front-runner Donald Trump.
“I think he is the best alternative to Donald Trump,” Mr. Graham told CNN. “I doubt Donald Trump’s conservatism. I think he’d be a disaster for the party.”
The endorsement from Mr. Graham was tortured and included acknowledgement that he was backing Mr. Cruz as a last resort to stop Mr. Trump.
His endorsement gave voice to the Republican establishment’s desperate struggle to stop Mr. Trump from become the nominee, even if it means embracing Mr. Cruz, a strident conservative whom also is 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,” he said. “Senator Cruz would not be my first choice, [but] I think he is a reliable conservative that I can support.”
Mr. Graham acknowledged that he often clashed with Mr. Cruz in the Senate.
“He is certainly not my preference, Sen. Cruz is not, but he is a reliable Republican conservative with whom I have had many differences with,” the South Carolina Republican said. “I doubt Donald Trump’s conservatism. I think he’d be a disaster for the party.”
He even expressed a preference for the third candidate in the race, Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“What I’m saying is I think John Kasich is the most viable general election candidate. I just don’t see how John gets though the primary,” Mr. Graham said. “This is an outsider year. He’s seen as an insider, so I think the best alternative to Donald Trump to stop him from getting to 1,237 is Ted Cruz.”
He was referring to the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
Mr. Graham’s 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.
Mr. Graham plans to hold a fund-raising event for Mr. Cruz next week in Washington to coincide with the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.