Live

Watch CBSN Live

Ted Cruz gets a surprising Senate endorsement

Just weeks after joking about Ted Cruz's murder, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is now backing him for president.

"I'm going to help Ted in every way I can," Cruz told CNN's Dana Bash on Thursday, and plans to hold fundraisers for him around next week's AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. Graham, who ran his own ill-fated presidential run earlier this cycle, described Cruz as the "best alternative" to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

Graham's support for Cruz was a pragmatic decision driven by the South Carolinian's opposition to Trump. Graham said that Ohio Governor John Kaisch was the, "most viable general election candidate," but called him an "insider" in an election year dominated by outsiders, telling Bash, "just don't see how John gets through the primary." He also slammed Trump, describing the billionaire's campaign as being "built on xenophobia, race baiting and religious bigotry."

Acknowledging that he's had "many differences with Senator Cruz's tactics" and behavior in the Senate, Graham said Cruz was a "reliable Republican conservative" who would back Israel and could be trusted to pick a conservative Supreme Court nominee, build the Keystone Pipeline, and repeal Obamacare.

On Tuesday, Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe told reporters in Houston, "It is fair to say that the campaign continues to grow and build and as people start to look at what a real campaign would look like with Donald Trump as the nominee, we get support from some unlikely sources."

It's a remarkable turn for Graham, who once compared the choice between Trump and Cruz to being "shot or poisoned" and joked that "if you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you."

Ted Cruz reacts to Obama's Supreme Court pick


But Graham has also hinted in the past that he could support Cruz. "Ted Cruz is not my favorite by any means, and I don't wish him ill, I was making a joke about Ted, but we may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump," he told CBS News on Super Tuesday. When asked the next day about Graham's comments, Cruz replied that "Lindsey is acknowledging the simple realities of this race."

Graham would be the third former 2016 presidential candidate to back Cruz, after former Texas Governor Rick Perry and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, and the second sitting U.S. Senator after Utah's Mike Lee.

View CBS News In