"He's certainly not my preference, but he's a reliable Republican," Lindsey Graham says of Ted Cruz

By Tierney McAfee
Updated March 18, 2016 01:25 PM
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Bob Levey/Getty; Mark J. Terrill/AP

Lindsey Graham has had an apparent change of heart about GOP hopeful Ted Cruz.

Graham, who just last month cracked a joke about murdering Cruz on the Senate floor, is set to headline a fundraiser for the Texas senator on Monday.

The South Carolina senator hesitated to fully endorse Cruz in comments to CNN, telling the news outlet that while the GOP hopeful is not his preferred candidate, he’s “the best alternative to Donald Trump.” Graham, who himself dropped out of the 2016 race last December, added that he would “help Ted in every way I can.”

The fundraiser invitation obtained by CNN invites donors to “honor and support” Cruz, whom Graham calls “a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” at a meet-and-greet event during the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., next week.

The South Carolina senator in January compared choosing between Cruz and Trump to a choice between “being shot or poisoned.”

And at a dinner event in February, Graham mocked Cruz’s unpopularity in Washington. “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” he said at the time.

“He’s certainly not my preference, but he’s a reliable Republican, conservative, which I’ve had many differences with,” Graham told CNN of his newfound support for Cruz, whom the South Carolina apparently views as the lesser of two evils.

“I have doubts about Mr. Trump, I don’t think he’s a Republican, I don’t think he’s a conservative, I think his campaign’s built on xenophobia, race-baiting and religious bigotry,” Graham said. “I think he’d be a disaster for our party and as Senator Cruz would not be my first choice, I think he is a Republican conservative who I could support.”