‘Anti-Trump’ Jeb Bush backs Ted Cruz for president

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and former Governor Jeb Bush (L) listens as U.S. Senator Ted Cruz  © Jonathan Ernst
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz on Wednesday, saying the senator from Texas represents the GOP’s best chance to unite and defeat controversial frontrunner Donald Trump.

Calling Cruz a “consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests,” Bush said Republicans need to get beyond “the divisiveness and vulgarity” of Trump’s campaign, which has garnered criticism for its candidate’s rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims.

“For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies,” Bush said in a statement.

In a post on Facebook, Bush also mentioned poverty in the US and Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels as important issues, arguing: “Western civilization is under attack from radical Islamic terrorists.”

“Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential,” he said in his statement.

The endorsement comes after Cruz and Trump each earned a victory in Tuesday’s primary voting, with the senator taking Utah and Trump taking Arizona. It’s unlikely that Cruz can win enough delegates to earn the Republican nomination outright – he currently has 465 delegates to Trump’s 739 – but it is still possible to stop The Donald from reaching the 1,237 delegates required to become the GOP’s representative in 2016 and try to take the position at this summer’s convention.

Despite the fact that many Republicans are displeased with Trump and fear what his nomination could do to the party, Cruz has, until recently, found it difficult to earn the support of the party’s establishment leaders even as the field of candidates has shrunk. Endorsements from Bush and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham this week may be pointing to cracks in the wall as the anti-Trump movement consolidates around Cruz.

“I’m truly honored to earn Governor Jeb Bush’s support,” Cruz said in a statement. “Governor Bush was an extraordinary governor of Florida, and his record of job creation and education innovation left a lasting legacy for millions of Floridians.”

“His endorsement today is further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative to defeat Hillary Clinton in November, take back the White House, and ensure a freer and more prosperous America for future generations.”

Mitt Romney, the GOP’s standard-bearer in 2012, also called on Republicans to vote for Cruz during Tuesday’s caucus in Utah. However, he stated that voting for Cruz was a way to defeat Trump and that he would rather see Ohio Governor John Kasich win the nomination.

"The only path that remains to nominate a Republican rather than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention," Romney wrote on Facebook. "At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible."

"I like Governor John Kasich. I have campaigned with him. He has a solid record as governor. I would have voted for him in Ohio. But a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.”

This week, in the Utah nominating caucus, I will vote for Senator Ted Cruz. Today, there is a contest between Trumpism...

Posted by Mitt Romney on Friday, March 18, 2016

While Bush’s endorsement is a coup for Cruz, the former Florida governor had previously been critical of the senator when he was running his own campaign. Bush previously argued that Cruz’s record did not show an ability to lead or overcome challenges. He also said Cruz’s proposal to carpet bomb the Islamic State in the Middle East was “foolish.”

"There are 800,000 people who live in Mosul. There's probably 5,000 Islamic terrorists who control the place,” Bush said, according to ABC News. “We're going to destroy 800,000 lives with a carpet-bombing activity? This is foolish. It is absolutely foolish. And he had to back away from it.”