It’s a terrible cliché: Politics makes strange bedfellows. But it was just a few weeks ago that South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham likened the choice between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as his party’s nominee to that between being shot or poisoned.
Well, to adapt the old Samuel Johnson line, when a man knows he is about to be shot, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. Graham and Cruz had a lengthy phone conversation on Thursday following Graham’s assertion that the GOP may have to unite around Ted Cruz in order to stop Donald Trump. Sources familiar with the call said the two discussed just that.
If anything, the existence of a dialogue between the two reveals a newfound flexibility on both sides. Many had questioned whether Cruz would make overtures to the party establishment if he came close to winning the nomination, and it at least appears he is willing to do so. Graham, for his part — after asserting earlier this week that somebody could murder Cruz on the floor of the Senate and not be prosecuted — appears to have made his peace.
“Ted and I are in the same party. Donald Trump is an interloper,” Graham told former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod on his weekly podcast. “I don’t trust him.”
But Graham also warned against an attempt to wrest the nomination out of Trump’s hands at the convention in Cleveland, which explains why he is warming to Cruz as the party’s best hope to defeat him beforehand.
He predicted Trump would walk out of the convention if that came to pass. “He would leave and he’d have a right to leave,” Graham said. “If he got two thirds of what he needs, which I think he’s well on his way to doing, for us to steal from him is not going to help the party.”
Hence the Lindsey Graham-Ted Cruz alliance, which nonetheless ranks as one of the less strange developments of the 2016 election cycle.