When Ted Cruz made his surprise last-minute endorsement of Donald Trump, after previously refusing to publicly support the GOP presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention this past summer, it was widely presumed that the Texas Senator was eyeing another presidential run in 2020 and caved to the Trumpism that was certain to form the base of the party, win or lose in 2016.
But if the also-ran's top nemesis in the Senate, fellow 2016 GOP also-ran Lindsey Graham, has anything to do with it, Cruz may be riding the Trump train to the Supreme Court instead.
Graham, who described Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” and did not vote for his party's presidential nominee, called on Democrats in the Senate to strike a conciliatory tone with president-elect Trump by pledging to support any Supreme Court nominee put forth by a man he once called a "jackass."
“I’m here to tell my Democratic colleagues that I voted for Obama’s nominees,” the South Carolina senator told South Carolina's WYFF-TV on Friday. “I expect them to give Trump’s nominees a fair shake. He won this election. He will pick a conservative. I would put Ted Cruz on that list.”
Graham then argued that there was “no stronger constitutional conservative” in the Senate than Cruz.
The veteran senator's sudden veneration for Cruz is curious considering comments he made about the Tea Party-aligned Texan.
“If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” Graham once joked of Cruz, referencing his unpopular reputation with Republican colleagues.
When pressed on his preference between Trump and Cruz, Graham said “It’s like being shot or poisoned," at a Capitol Hill press conference in January. “What does it matter?”
“Ted Cruz, at his core, is an opportunist when it comes to his political career,” he said that same month.
Even when eventually endorsing Cruz months later, Graham could only offer his tepid support.
But still, Graham is apparently trying to find a silver lining in Trump's election in getting Cruz booted from the Senate — even if that means granting him an appointment to a position of immense power for life. Essentially, making him someone else's problem.
“If they try to block this pick, they will regret it. If you don’t honor Trump’s nominee, you’re making a huge mistake,” Graham said of Trump's first potential pick for the Supreme Court