Sounding resigned to the lesser of two evils, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Monday said he would help Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in every way he can if it means stopping Donald Trump.
“Mr. Trump is not a Republican. I think he’s not a conservative. I think his campaign’s built on xenophobia, race-baiting and religious bigotry. I think he’d be a disaster for our party,” the S.C. Republican told CNN’s Dana Bash.
“Senator Cruz would not be my first choice, (but) I think he is a Republican conservative who I could support,” Graham added, joking, “I’m actually waiting for pigs to start flying down the street.”
It’s a sign of how desperate many Republicans are to stop their own front-runner, who swept three more states in Tuesday’s primaries. Graham has been open about his disdain for Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas, famously comparing the choice between Trump and Cruz to “being shot or poisoned” and joking about his unpopularity in the Senate.
“He’s certainly not my preference, but he’s a reliable Republican conservative,” he said on Thursday. “I doubt Donald Trump’s conservatism. I think he’d be a disaster for the party. So, I’m going to try to raise money for Senator Cruz in the pro-Israel community.”
Graham will host a fundraiser Monday during an American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference, according to CNN. He is the second senator to pledge his support to Cruz, who picked up his first Senate endorsement from U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, last week.
Graham originally endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush after ending his own bid for the GOP nomination in December, campaigning with Bush ahead of his home state’s February primary.
While Graham would prefer Ohio Gov. John Kasich — the third Republican left in the GOP race — as his party’s nominee, Cruz is the only candidate left who can stop Trump, he said.
“John Kasich I think is the most viable general election candidate, I just don’t see how John gets through the primary. 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 1,237 (delegates) is Ted Cruz,” Graham said.
He echoed the somewhat lukewarm tone of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who informally endorsed Cruz Wednesday after her original pick, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, dropped out of the race after losing his home state of Florida to the business mogul.
After Tuesday’s primaries, Trump leads the GOP race with 691 delegates. Cruz has won 422, and John Kasich has won 145.