The Mississippi Republican primary is tonight, and Governor Phil Bryant has decided on an endorsement — for Ted Cruz. Bryant announced his endorsement in a statement to the Mississippi paper The Clarion-Ledger:
“I’m not going to get out and make a big show about it, but Sen. Cruz was in town today, and I met with him and gave him my endorsement,” Bryant said. “It was a hard choice — I know so many of them, Chris Christie, I know Jeb Bush, I know the ones still running now. They are good people … But I am also looking toward November and I think if Ted Cruz is nominated, he has a good opportunity to defeat the Democratic nominee.”
This rationale is interesting, because Cruz has not tended to win the “electability” argument. Those who make this argument generally favor more moderate Republicans, such as Marco Rubio or John Kasich.
The Clarion-Ledger noted that Bryant is close friends with former Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, and admitted that Perry’s backing of Cruz played into his decision. Texas’s current governor, Greg Abbott, also endorsed Cruz, as did the current governor of Guam, Eddie Calvo. Bryant also noted spending time with Cruz at a Heritage Foundation event a few months ago.
The Mississippi governor also likes Marco Rubio, but decided that Cruz was a better pick and a fiercer fighter for conservative values:
“I like Marco Rubio,” Bryant said. “I think he’s true at heart. I just had to make the decision on who I think has the best chance to win in November and who I liked best as a candidate and as a person. Ted Cruz has gone to Washington and showed courage and grit to stand up to things he disagrees with.”
Mississippi is one of four states which will vote tonight in Republican primaries. The others are Hawaii, Idaho, and Michigan. Cruz is considered to have momentum following last Saturday’s showing, where he defeated the front-runner, Donald Trump, in Kansas and Maine by large margins, and only narrowly lost to Trump in Louisiana and Kentucky. Rubio, meanwhile, is considered an underdog after poor showings on Saturday, but his large win in Puerto Rico on Sunday might have given him a second wind, especially in his must-win home state of Florida.