In January, not long after ending his own presidential campaign, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was asked whether he preferred Ted Cruz or Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. "It's like being shot or poisoned," Graham responded
. "What does it really matter?"
More recently, the South Carolina Republican joked
, "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you."
Graham's comments were intended to be funny, of course, but they spoke to a larger truth: not only do Senate Republicans deeply dislike the junior senator from Texas, but Lindsey Graham has a personal aversion to Cruz and his style. Graham has a reputation for generally getting along well with his colleagues, but there's no denying the fact that he just doesn't like Ted Cruz.
Sen. Lindsey Graham is jumping into the presidential election once again, announcing that he will host a fundraiser for Sen. Ted Cruz in an effort to derail Donald Trump from clinching the Republican nomination. In an interview with CNN, Graham said that while he has condemned Cruz's tactics and behaviors in the past, he is strategically the best alternative to stop Trump.
As these things go, Graham's support for Cruz is about as weak as any you'll ever see from one senator to another. Graham said Cruz is "certainly not my preference," and he's "had many differences with" his Texas colleague. But Graham's backing him anyway -- because he's not Donald Trump.
Asked specifically if he's "endorsing" Cruz, Graham said Ohio Gov. John Kasich is "the most viable general election candidate," but Graham doesn't believe the governor can get "get through the primary." Cruz, therefore, is "the best alternative."
Graham went on to say, "I'm going to help Ted in every way I can."
Several years ago, after Newt Gingrich ended his presidential campaign and endorsed Mitt Romney, Fox News' Shep Smith read Gingrich's statement on the air, before saying, with perfect deadpan delivery
, "Politics is weird. And creepy. And now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality."
Seeing Graham offer support for Cruz fits into a similar category.
The Washington Post published a sampling
of the things Graham has said about Cruz just over the last four months. The list included gems such as:
Feb. 26: "I was asked the hardest question in my political life: Do you agree with Donald Trump that Ted Cruz is the biggest liar in politics?" he said. "Too close to call." Feb. 4: On the question of foreign policy, the Texas senator is "just as wrong as Obama, if not worse." Dec. 2: "Ted Cruz's foreign policy has been uneven and he has done more to allow ISIL to gain a foothold in Syria than any Senator other than Rand Paul."
And while I suspect Graham still believes what he's said about his colleague, the fact remains that he sees Trump as much worse.
Of the 54 Republicans in the Senate, Graham is only the second to announce his support for Cruz, following Mike Lee's (R-Utah) endorsement last week. If GOP senators are serious about trying to derail Trump, expect that number to grow.