Barely a month after comparing the choice between nominating Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to “being shot or poisoned,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it might be time to reach for the arsenic to save his party.
“Ted Cruz is not my favorite by any means, but we may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump,” the Seneca native told CBS in an interview as Trump placed first in seven states in Super Tuesday’s primaries, adding, even so, “I’m not so sure that would work.”
It’s hardly a ringing endorsement from someone who has been an outspoken critic of Cruz, just last week joking about the Texan being murdered on the Senate floor. But after months of denial, Republicans are waking up to the reality that Trump could win the GOP nomination.
Graham, himself a presidential candidate until be dropped out and backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said he does not see anything standing in the way of Trump’s nomination “short of a major scandal.”
“We’re about to lose to the most dishonest politician in America, Hillary Clinton, and how could you do that? Nominate someone who’s crazy,” Graham said. “Dishonest beats crazy. That’s our problem.”
Of Trump, Graham said: “Look what he’s done: He invited Hillary and Bill Clinton to his wedding; he gave money to Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer; he said George W. Bush lied about the Iraq War and caused 9/11; and he’s about to become the Republican Party nominee. That’s very hard to do, so you got to give him some credit.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, who backed Cruz just ahead of the S.C. primary, has joined the small but growing group of conservatives in Congress who say they cannot back Trump under any circumstances.
“Not that political views mean anything in this year, but, because I believe in constitutionally limited government, his candidacy is one I certainly can’t support,” Sanford told the Wall Street Journal in an email on Tuesday.
Sanford also shared an open letter to Trump supporters written by U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., with his Facebook followers. In the post, Sasse explains that while he would not back Clinton, “if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.”
In Tuesday evening’s interview with CBS, Graham wavered between exasperated and resigned, repeating he is certain a Trump nomination equals a Clinton presidency.
“Have you ever heard the statement ‘too big to fail,’ well we’re too stubborn to win,” he said.
“So here’s what I’m going to say in November when we lose: I told you so. Please quit beating up on the Hispanic community. Quit saying that most illegal immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, because they’re not. Try to open up the party to conservatism in a fashion that will allow us to grow,” Graham said. “How many times do you have to lose to understand why you’re losing?”
Graham said the GOP is “in a demographic death spiral with Hispanics and young people, and Donald Trump is not the answer to our problems.”