Former candidate Jeb Bush has endorsed Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, saying the US senator from Texas represents the party’s best chance of winning the White House.
In a statement on Wednesday, the former Florida governor called Cruz a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated an ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.
“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,” Bush said.
The 63-year-old Bush, whose father and brother served as president, dropped out of the presidential nomination fight after losing badly in South Carolina on February 20.
The endorsement comes as establishment Republicans scramble to stop front-runner Donald Trump from winning the nomination because of his divisive proposals.
Cruz has run in second place behind Trump and could conceivably win enough Republican delegates to take the nomination.
Ohio Governor John Kasich’s lone path to the nomination is to extend the nomination race until the party’s national convention in July. The idea is to deny Trump the required 1237 delegates needed and force party leaders to consider someone else.
A source close to Bush said Bush picked Cruz because he has the most viable path to the nomination and has shown that he can win states. The source said Bush considers a push for a contested convention to be a “hail-Mary strategy at best”.
In his statement, Bush resumed his sharp criticism of Trump, saying Republican voters must move to overcome “the divisiveness and vulgarity” that Trump has brought into the political arena “or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President (Barack) Obama’s failed policies.
“To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that,” Bush said.
In a statement, Cruz said Bush’s endorsement “is further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative” to defeat Democratic favourite Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election.