Washington, Jan 21 (IANS) A day after winning the endorsement of Sarah Palin, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump won the indirect backing of another establishment figure as he held a 20-point lead in a key primary state.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz would be even worse for the Republican Party than the real estate mogul Trump were he to win the presidential nomination, former presidential nominee Bob Dole told the New York Times on Wednesday.
Warning of “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” for the Republican Party if Cruz prevails, Dole, who unsuccessfully challenged then Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996, said Cruz had made enemies in Washington.
“I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” Dole told the Times. “Nobody likes him.”
Trump, on the other hand, could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker”, Dole added.
Dole has endorsed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and previously said he might “oversleep” on Election Day if Cruz ends up the nominee.
Questioning Cruz’s commitment to the Republican Party, Dole called him an “extremist” and said Cruz chooses “conservative” as his label.
“If he’s the nominee, we’re going to have wholesale losses in Congress and state offices and governors and legislatures,” Dole said.
Dole said only Trump seemed to be able to take Cruz on, and he added that the real estate mogul seems to have “toned down” his rhetoric.
He added that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton was beatable — but not for Cruz.
“I think she’d be a pretty easy target in the general, if we nominate the right person,” Dole said. “If (Cruz) does it, I think she’ll win in a waltz.”
The 92-year-old former lawmaker is only the latest establishment Republican to express concern about Cruz’s growing strength in the Republican primary polls, after Iowa Governor Terry Branstad on Tuesday said he hoped that Cruz was defeated.
Meanwhile, Trump, who won former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Palin’s endorsement on Tuesday, led by 34 percent to 14 percent over Cruz among voters in New Hampshire’s February 9 Republican primary.
Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are tied for the third spot with 10 percent each in the new CNN/WMUR Poll.
But Cruz has grown the most since a December poll: He’s climbed from 6 percent to 14 percent, largely on the strength of a favourability rating that has jumped from 46 percent in December to 55 percent now.
Trump, though, dominates on the two issues that likely voters have identified as most important: the economy and the threat of ISIS.
Nearly half — 48 percent — of Republicans say Trump would best handle the economy, far ahead of Bush, Cruz and Ohio governor John Kasich, with just 7 percent each.
And 32 percent say he’d best handle the Islamic State, ahead of Cruz’s 14 percent, Bush’s 12 percent and Rubio’s 10 percent.