The Slatest

Left With No Other Choice, Jeb Bush Endorses Ted Cruz

Jeb Bush reacts to a reporter’s question during a campaign event on Jan. 27 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Republican establishment’s grudging acceptance that Ted Cruz is the only man left who can stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination continued Wednesday, as former GOP favorite (remember that!) Jeb Bush endorsed the Texan senator.

In a statement, Bush called his onetime rival a “consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.” Political pleasantries out of the way, Jeb then arrived at his true motivation: “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.” (Hilariously, someone on Team Jeb felt it necessary to use this opportunity to make one last dig at Marco Rubio. “Jeb came to believe Marco was not up to the job of being president,” an unnamed source told Politico, explaining why Bush didn’t back Rubio ahead of the Florida primary. “It was never really under serious discussion.”)

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Bush’s endorsement arrives as the #NeverTrump mindset is slowly evolving from Anybody but Trump to Ugh, I guess Ted really is our only hope. Earlier this month, for instance, Mitt Romney urged Republicans to vote for whatever candidate had the best chance of beating Trump in a particular state, be it Cruz, John Kasich, or Marco Rubio. Since then, though, Rubio was forced from the race after a crushing defeat in his home state of Florida while Kasich has failed to be much of a factor anywhere outside of Ohio. That left Romney little choice but to announce last week that he was going to vote for Cruz in Tuesday’s Utah caucus.

It’s unclear whether Bush’s endorsement will actually help Cruz. Individual endorsements rarely move the needle, and GOP voters have already made it pretty clear they’re not exactly Jeb fans. Still, if the rest of the Stop Trump movement were to do the same, it could eventually force Kasich from the race and set up a two-man race between Cruz and Trump. If that happens, Cruz still wouldn’t be able to win enough delegates to claim the nomination during the primary season—but it could make it easier for him to win enough of them to stop Trump from reaching the magic number. Something tells me that would be just fine with Jeb Bush and the rest of the GOP establishment, which appears to like Cruz only when he’s standing next to Trump.

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Elsewhere in Slate:

See more of Slate’s GOP primary coverage.

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